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

Advocacy And Standards (1 John: Part Two)

Advocacy And Standards (1 John: Part Two)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Advocacy & Standards

My children, I’m writing all of this to you to help you avoid sin. But when we do sin, we have someone who came from God and who advocates for us: Jesus Christ, the morally perfect one who gets rid of every one of our sins. He doesn’t just take care of our sins, he does the same thing for the whole world! 

We can know for sure that we know him if we do what he’s told us. Anyone who claims to know God but doesn’t do what he’s told us is a liar. The truth doesn’t exist in them. 

If we do what he’s told us to do, the truth is in us and God’s love is, too. That’s how we know we’re with him. If we claim to be with him, we’re obligated to live by the same standard Jesus lived by. 

“Partnership” (1 John: Part One)

“Partnership” (1 John: Part One)

Wednesday’s Article: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Partnership

It’s existed since the beginning. We’ve heard it ourselves and we’ve seen it with our own eyes. We’ve studied it and touched it with our own hands. This is the word of life, and this life was shown to us. Everything we’ve heard and witnessed and told you about is this eternal life. He came from the father and was revealed to us. We’ve told you everything we’ve seen and heard so you can partner with us. We have this partnership with the father, as well as with his son Jesus Christ. We’re writing this to you to make our joy complete.

The message that we’ve been hearing from him is the same one we’re giving you: God is made of light, and no darkness exists in him whatsoever. If we claim to be partners with him while our lives are defined by walking in darkness, we’re liars and can’t even practice the truth. But if our lives are defined by walking in light, we have partnership with each other. On top of that, the blood of God’s son Jesus gets rid of any and all sins we have!

If someone says they don’t have sin, they’re lying – no truth exists in them. If we admit that we have sin in our lives, he is consistent and morally pure, so he’ll forgive us and get rid of our moral impurity. If someone says they’ve never even sinned, they make God a liar. His word will have nothing to do with them. 

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

In every chapter of Ecclesiastes you can expect at least two kinds of verses. At least one verse will make you wonder what Solomon is talking about and one verse will hit you in a profound way. As it turns out, humans haven’t changed that much over the years and our current experience of life share many similarities. Here are twelve amazing truths found in this book. 

1.4-8 

Some things never change. 

2.24-25 

Pleasing God will bring you more joy than chasing the things that bring momentary pleasure. 

3.9-11 

God has given us a desire to know the future. Because of this, we understand that while we don’t know the future we’re better off serving a God who does. 

4.9-12

It’s by design that we can accomplish more with help. God can do more with us when we are team players. 

5.19-20 

There’s joy to be found in hard work and that too is by design. Satisfaction is a natural feeling produced by the work of our hands. 

6.6

If you don’t find joy in life then life will drag on and feel slower. 

7.13-15 

When life is good, enjoy it. When life is hard— remember that it’s like that for everybody. Ups and downs are part of living. 

8.16-18 

This world is not just but don’t let that fool you into thinking that God isn’t just. We can’t understand how God’s mind operates in every circumstance. 

9.11-12 

Not everything happens for a reason! God might have a hand in any event, Satan may have something to do with it— or maybe it’s all a coincidence.

10.8-15 

Every job has it’s dangers but wisdom can make a job run smoother just as a sharp knife can make a task easier. 

11.7-8

It’s good to be alive! It’s nice to see the light from the sun. You should enjoy the life you live with eternity on your mind. 

12.11 

You can put your trust in any wisdom and teaching that comes from God. 

Each chapter of Ecclesiastes is filled with wisdom and life changing words. Our world needs to spend more time studying this inspired collection of truth. 

Dead Sea Scroll 109 (Ecclesiastes, commons image)
Twenty Lies We Tell Ourselves (And God’s Responses)

Twenty Lies We Tell Ourselves (And God’s Responses)

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard
  • “I did this by myself” (Deut. 8:17)
  • “I’ll do it tomorrow” (Prov. 27:1; Jas. 4:13)
  • “I’ve gone too far and done too much” (cf. Luke 15:13-24)
  • “I can’t do it!” (Num. 13:31; Phil. 4:13)
  • “Nobody will ever know!” (Ecc. 12:14; Rom. 2:16).
  • “I deserve this” (Luke 12:15-21;
  • “This feels right so it must be right” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25)
  • “I’m not good enough” (Eph. 1:6; Heb. 12:28)
  • “No one will miss me; I’m not needed” (1 Cor. 12:14-27)
  • “It won’t matter a thousand years from now” (Mat. 25:46)
  • “God is trying to keep me from enjoying life” (Gen. 3:4-6)
  • “I can quit anytime I want to” (John 8:34; Rom. 6:16; 2 Pet. 2:19)
  • “Everybody does it” (Exo. 23:2)
  • “I’m only hurting myself” (Luke 17:1-2; Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:9-13)
  • “If God loved me I wouldn’t be going through this” (Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:6)
  • “I can’t help it” (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 9:27)
  • “I was born this way” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
  • “It’s too late for me” (Matt. 20:6-9)
  • “I don’t need help” (Ecc. 4:9-12)
  • “Nobody cares about me” (Rom. 8:35-39)

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6)

via Pixabay (creative commons)
Thank You, Dr. Jordan Peterson

Thank You, Dr. Jordan Peterson

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

According to an article written on The Public Discourse in 2018, Dr. Jordan Peterson is said to be “the most influential Biblical interpreter in the world today.” By almost all accounts, his insight and commentary on the Scriptures are held in high regard. On several occasions, Dr. Peterson has been asked about his belief in God to which he responds, “I don’t like that question.” One of his most popular YouTube series covers, “The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.” 

There have been millions of people who have spent hours watching these videos, but most of them are still wondering what Dr. Jordan believes concerning the existence of God. He says, “I act as if God exists and I am terrified that He might.” Some in his audience have taken this, and other similar comments made by him, to be deliberately vague. After one particular lecture, Dr. Peterson gave those in attendance the opportunity to ask him questions. One attendee asked Jordan to give his insight on the apostle Paul’s statement, “…and if Christ has not been raised, then all of our preaching is useless” (I Cor. 15.14). To this, Dr. Peterson put his hand to his chin and pondered this for a minute. Afterwards, he looked up and said, “I don’t have a good answer to that. I haven’t gotten to the New Testament yet, but I plan to find out what he meant.” 

This response deserves our appreciation. Jordan Peterson is a serious thinker and a great philosopher who takes his quest for truth seriously. He has acknowledged the importance of seeking out the answer to life’s most important question. He has made the realization that a personal discovery of God’s existence would carry with it life-changing implications. 

While his current beliefs do not mesh with the teachings found in His Word, he exemplifies the seriousness that we may sometimes lack. If we profess to believe in a supreme and eternal Creator who will one day judge mankind, our lives should reflect this down to our core. Our daily decisions should exhibit the devotion of our lips. 

Why We Need To Listen To God

Why We Need To Listen To God

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Kason Eubanks

Armando Alvarez was a former gang member that was giving an interview with Jesse Watters. They were talking about crime and what’s driving people to commit crime. Armando said that the biggest reason is they think they have to be better than everyone else. It is like a game in a way, he said.

The gang members think they will be happy with more and more things. They listen to what the world says will cause happiness. They compete with each other to see who can gain the most. They don’t know that there is an eternal place that you get to choose at the end of this life that will lead to eternal happiness. I would like to share just five scriptures about why we should not do our own thing but instead listen to God.

First, in Psalm 32:8 God is telling us that he will instruct us in the way we should go.

Then, Isaiah tells us in chapter 55 and verses 7-8 that our thoughts are not his thoughts and our words are not his words and our ways are not his ways. He is telling us that we need to follow God’s instruction because he knows what we don’t. He also sees all things that we cannot see.

Also in Jeremiah 17:7 we read that there are a lot more benefits of following God instead of leaning on our own understanding. There is a story about a kid in school that never hung up his jacket. The teacher warned him many times that if he left his jacket on the floor she would throw it away. The next time he left it on the floor she threw it away with intentions of getting the jacket out shortly after. That is until a kid got sick and threw up in the same trash can. The kid should have listened to the teacher. When we lean on our own understanding bad things can happen.

Then, Psalm 37:3-4 tells us that we should always have faith in him and all that he says to us.

Finally, Proverbs 3:5-6 ties back to Jeremiah about not leaning on our own understanding but trust in Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.

The question I want to ask you today is, “Do you listen to God’s instruction or do you do everything on your own?” I want to challenge us to go through the week and put God first however hard it may be to do it. We should let our light shine always for Christ and hopefully plant a seed in somebody’s life whether we know the person or not.

God’s instructions give us peace here on earth. We read in Romans that If God is for us, who can be against us. If you realize that you haven’t been following God’s instructions as you should and feel the need to make some changes in your life, know that God will always be with you.

(Armando Alvarez, gvwire)
Difficult People? 11 Practical Verses

Difficult People? 11 Practical Verses

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

The Bible is filled with so many helpful verses on daily living. Many of us can find it difficult at times to work with people, especially if we’re having a stressful day. Here are eleven practical passages that will help us in our interactions with others this week. 

  1. A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger 
    (Proverbs 15:1) 
  2. The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases 
    persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21) 
  3. Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2) 
  4. Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10) 
  5. Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2) 
  6. As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31) 
  7. Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12) 
  8. Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact with 
    Him? (Matthew 25:40) 
  9. Season your speech with grace. It’s the Savior’s All-Spice for every relationship-building goal (Col. 4:5-6)
  10. Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)
  11. Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15) 

One thing you might notice about these scriptures is how many of them deal with our speech. According to the book of James, the tongue is incredibly difficult to tame. Reading these verses, it becomes clear that there are several advantages of placing the bridle over our lips. 

Knowledgeable Worship

Knowledgeable Worship

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Each Sunday, Christians come together to worship our Creator. But before we can properly worship God, we need to know what He wants from us. We can’t just come together and do what we think God would want. There is no guesswork required because God has plainly told us. This isn’t an article on our singing, taking the Lord’s supper, or reading scripture. But worship requires knowledge, and this knowledge will help us to properly prepare when we come together. 

If our knowledge is lacking, what happens? In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu offered God something He did not ask for. “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them. And fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord” (1-2).

“Strange fire?”

Depending on your translation there are several different interpretations of what they offered. 

  • ESV “Unauthorized” 
  • NKJV “Profane” 
  • RSV “unholy” 

None of these translations speak well of their actions, and we read the consequences of their actions. They offered God a sacrifice without proper knowledge. Some would say that how God responded was uncalled for, and while His actions may seem extreme, there are several facts we learn about Worship. 

We learn that when God tells us how to do something, we better listen. We learn that proper knowledge of how to worship is essential. We learn that God takes worship seriously. 

I’m thankful that God doesn’t deal with us today in the same way. The times that I’ve caught my mind wandering in the songs we sing, or when I loose my train of thought during the Lord’s supper, I’m sure that God has had plenty of opportunities to strike me down. 

Leviticus 10 is a sobering reminder. And we need to ask ourselves, “Are we offering strange fire to God?” 

We can avoid doing this by having the proper knowledge of what God has commanded. 

It’s not about what we think sounds good, or what we think God would like. 

It’s about our Creator. We don’t need to guess; He has clearly told us. In John 4:23-24, Jesus in speaking with the Samaritan woman says, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews, But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”

What does God want us to know about worship? The people God seeks to be His are the ones who worship in Spirit and Truth. 

The word Spirit literally means, “As the source and seat of insight, feeling, and will.” 

Basically what Jesus is trying to convey is that:

  • When we sing, we sing with feeling
  • When we pray, we pray with feeling
  • When we remember Christ, we feel the weight of the sacrifice. 
  • When we read God’s word, we do it with feeling. 

God wants our hearts to be in worship. 

A knowledge of God helps us accomplish this command. Which is exactly why Jesus says to worship in spirit, but also in Truth. Our emotions and feelings are based on the truth that God has revealed. The truth that comes from divine inspiration. If we worship in spirit and neglect the truth, we are offering strange fire. If we worship in truth alone without emotion, we are offering strange fire to God. 

In order to worship, we must have a knowledge of what God wants from us.

Test His Truth

Test His Truth

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

image-e1601983688162

Dale Pollard

(now the pulpit minister of the Tompkinsville church of Christ, Tompkinsville, KY)

   With countless opinions and information out there, God is just another “option” and the Bible is just “good advice to follow.” Dave Mustaine summed up how many people feel when he said, “The Bible and several other self help or enlightenment books cite the Seven Deadly Sins. They are: pride, greed, lust, envy, wrath, sloth, and gluttony. That pretty much covers everything that we do, that is sinful… or fun for that matter.”

Is the Bible just an ancient “self-help” book that tells us not to do anything fun? Questioning God is not something new. Even Epicurus said, “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then He is not omnipotent. Is He able, but not willing? Then He is malevolent. Is He both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is He neither able nor willing? Then why call Him God?” I truly believe that you can understand who God is just based on scripture. When He gave that book to man, He gave us a piece of Himself.

God wants a relationship with us (I Peter 5:6-7). This is why He has purposefully informed us about Himself. People need God whether they know it or not. I’d encourage you, as an individual,  to put the Bible on trial. Put the accuracy of its pages to the test. It has withstood hundreds of years of accusations and doubt. Often we are able to grow in our faith and belief as a result of seeking and searching. As His church, we have a responsibility to proclaim the excellence of our creator. We do it by our love for others, exposing the evidence of His existence, and introducing Jesus every opportunity we have.