The sayings of the wise are like the sharp sticks that shepherds use to guide sheep, and collected proverbs are as lasting as firmly driven nails. They have been given by God, the one Shepherd of us all.
~Ecclesiastes 12:11, NLT
The job of communicating truth in a fresh way without diminishing its exacting nature is quite a challenge.
~Daniel L. Akin
After reading today’s quote, James 3:1 came to mind…Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. As I have stated and restated, I am very disappointed in Solomon’s overall performance but the man was brilliant and he was a great teacher and a teacher of teachers. I heard a professor say once, “What is the best method of teaching?” Then he answered the question, “The method you did not use last.” Teachers have a tendency to get in a rut. I have a feeling Solomon was always trying to improve his teaching methods. They say Ernest Hemingway did one hundred rewrites of OLD MAN AND THE SEA before releasing it to be published. R.G. Lee had a famous sermon called PAYDAY SOMEDAY. He was traveling on a Sunday and stopped at a little way side Baptist Church. He slipped in and sat on the back pew. The young pastor preached his sermon, Payday Someday. He did a good job because he had memorized the sermon. He nor anyone else in his small congregation recognized Dr. Lee, so as Dr. Lee exited the building, he shook the young man’s hand and told him it was a good sermon. “By the way,” asked Dr. Lee, “How long did it take you to prepare that sermon?” “Three hours,” was the young preachers reply; “That is strange,” said Dr. Lee, “It took me three years.”
My goal as a Pastor/Teacher is to communicate the truth found in the word. Some verses need no explanation but others do. I am a slave to commentaries. To be a bible scholar [technically], you have to have a working knowledge of the original languages [Hebrew and Greek] which of course I do not have. This means I have to study, get help from different sources. Once I get the truth myself, the challenge becomes translating it in such a way that others see the truth. The older I get, the more I realize what an awesome challenge this is to communicate the word. I have taught things for years that to me seemed fundamental and then I hear folks make statements that reveal they have no idea what I’ve been trying to communicate.
Then there is an age old debate about commentary on the scripture from the pulpit. I had a man confront man some 35 years ago about this very thing. He told me that my commentary on the scripture was strictly my opinion and nothing more. He basically said, “I am not responding to anything you say.” I drew comfort later from the fact that he didn’t submit to the word either. Some preacher are fearful to make application, to confront or to challenge; they are afraid of upsetting or offending people but Solomon said, The sayings of the wise are like the sharp sticks that shepherds use to guide sheep. The term for the stick is goad. The shepherd used it to prod the sheep and move them along in the right direction. The role of the pastor is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable. You have to do some goading, it is a part of our jog description. The bigger problem might be that we have too many goats running with the sheep.
For years, I saw pastors skirt around the issue of abortion. I have known preachers who were afraid to preach on the evils of alcohol and it is not uncommon for preachers to by-pass messages on stewardship. I have known others who would not touch missions or evangelism. Many preacher, especially the older ones will not do series for this very reason. In other words, they pick their spots. Whereas I agree with Solomon and firmly believe we have to do some goading; I understand that is a right and wrong way to do it. There are two kinds of boldness:  A prideful boldness that goes into the pulpit with the intention of offending as many as possible and  an humble, Christlike boldness that does not shy away from the truth even if it offends. One thing is sure and I am sure that Solomon the professor would agree: we all have room for improvement.
How many times have I told you? “You never know what a day will bring.” I woke up about 6:30 yesterday morning and popped a Werthers Original in my mouth. It is the first thing I do in the morning. Then I headed for the bathroom to shower and brush my teeth and part of the Werthers would not melt. My better judgment told me not to bit harder and so I spit this rebellious piece of candy into my hand and he was a crown. No big deal, they will glue in back in at Dental Associates. I go to the breakfast meeting with our next Governor and then on to the dentist. I got there at 9:30 and left a little after 12:00. A big chunk of my tooth was still attached to the crown. They told me an extraction was the only option. Ok, no big deal, I have had teeth pulled before. It’s like 10:45 by now and my head is hurting. Lynn asked if I wanted gas, and I said sure, maybe it will help the headache. The numbing shots were not bad and around 11:00 they start trying to pull the tooth. Underline TRYING. They had to dig it out chunk by chunk. It had four roots and that pulled them one at a time. It took over an hour and I was bleeding like a stuck hog. They even had to put stitches in my gums. The bleeding finally stopped around 3:30. I had big plans for the day including visiting the hospital but after the tooth thing; I was done for the day. I did get to do a lot of studying after I got up around 4:00 pm. Keep this to yourself, I was not supposed to be eating Werthers.