There’s been a lot of talk recently about fake news. In case you’ve missed out on this phenomenon, fake news refers to misinformation that is deliberately spread on social media or even actual media cites often for political or financial gain. (The term can also refer to news media outlets making news stories out of nonstories.) One would never expect this sort of thing to happen in church since the church is to be the bastion of truth, in particular, the truth of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. Continue reading
2. Teach with a specific goal in mind.
Following the characteristics of how “the Teacher” prepared to instruct others, the author of Ecclesiastes comments on the goal for which “the Teacher” taught others. Ecclesiastes 12:11a states, “The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails.” A “goad” was an implement that prodded an animal in a desired direction. A “goad” was used to direct an ox while plowing. “The Teacher’s” instruction is likened to a goad. It is intended to lead his audience to a certain place. According to 12:13 that place is genuine worship of the one true God and following his commands wholeheartedly. Continue reading
Maybe you’ve encountered the teacher kept you in the dark about where they were headed. I’ve heard of preachers who thought it a virtue to keep their congregations guessing about the point of their sermons. But is this really helpful? Wouldn’t it be better to tell the audience (whether students or a congregation) what your main point is and then show them?
The writer of Ecclesiastes closes his book with a brief outline of how “the Teacher” systematically went about instructing those placed under his care. I believe these verses may rightly be applied to a teacher/preacher of the Bible today. This is by no means exhaustive of what the Bible has to say about teaching others, but Ecclesiastes 12:9–11 does provide at least three principles that can (and should) guide every teacher/preacher of Scripture.
My book, Following the Lamb: The Theme of Discipleship in the Book of Revelation was reviewed in the most recent edition of Southeastern Theological Review 8/1 (Spring 2017): 97–99. Obviously, the reason I’m linking to it is because the review was fair-minded and favorable of my work. Southeastern Theological Review is published biannually by Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, NC (my alma mater).
About a week and a half ago I made a post on the book of Ruth. I noted, among other things, how God worked in and through the suffering of Naomi to bring her to a place of blessing. God uses our afflictions to do some of his best work in us and through us. He uses struggles to shape us and make us into the image of his beloved Son.
But one of the things I failed to really consider was the way the Lord comforts us while we are going through difficulties. While mourning the death of her husband, Naomi had her two sons to give her consolation. When her sons passed, she had the love and faithfulness of Ruth to hold her up.
When we go through personal tragedies God is faithful to his own to give them comfort, often in the form of people around them, most notably the church. Brothers and sisters in Christ are the instruments God uses, along with the personal presence of the Holy Spirit, to buoy our sunken spirits. In a bit of irony, it is the very experience of past suffering and knowing God’s comfort in suffering that the Lord uses to comfort his people. Paul, writing to the church at Corinth states:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
We who have been hurt most deeply have not borne it for nothing. There is purpose in the pain. There is a reason for our affliction. In part, to shape us and form us into the perfect image of Christ, too be sure. But more than that; to supply the comfort of the Lord to those who are presently hurting, so that those who are burdened with sorrow may know the joy of the Lord through our being there with them.
This doesn’t mean the hurt and heartache will vanish. We aren’t promised that in this life. But we can know the Lord’s gracious comforting touch while we experience sorrow. Paul puts it this way concerning his response to his own sufferings, “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). This is possible through God’s help, as his people respond to those who are hurting with the comfort of Christ.
It’s been a while since I’ve submitted a blog post. The extra time I might have to think about something to write and, then actually take the time to write it, has been dedicated to preparation for a class I’m currently teaching at Emmanuel College, and regularly leading a young adult class at my church. Continue reading