As always, hard copies can still be ordered from my storefront on Lulu and, as of today, the print price is only $9.50 (Lulu’s cost to print). Not only that, but now you can download the PDF for free.
In The Preacher on Preaching, Danny Akin made the point,
What we say is more important than how we say it, but how we say has never been more important.
He used Ecclesiastes 12:9-12 (especially verse 10) to emphasize that dull words are not delightful.
Other thoughts I had while listening to this message:
- The preacher’s passion is different than the preacher’s polish.
- If the preacher is boring because he is disinterested, that preaching is sinful.
I am excited to announce that I completed a major project last week and picked up copies of the finished product on Friday.1
A Bit of Context
During the final week of May, I adapted 14 sermons from my Ecclesiastes series into a book for the graduating seniors in our ministry. They endured 61 messages over the course of three years, and I figured this was the least I could give them. So I holed up in my home study for 16 or so hours a day for three days in order to rework and format the material. I self-published through Lulu, and for what it’s worth, I could not recommend their product more highly.
The first order of books arrived in time for graduation and I presented a copy to each graduate. But the closer I examined the book, the more I regrettably realized how much it looked like something put together in three days.2
I needed help. So I asked Patti Frisk, our school’s secondary English teacher, along with my mom, also a high school English teacher, to edit the book. Each one graciously agreed and went to work with red pens in hand. They returned improved manuscripts to me before June ended, and the ball was back in my court. Thank you, ladies.
Somehow, other projects kept creeping onto my calendar. Since I was eager to clean this meaty task off my plate, I spent the month of November and the early days of December making revisions, adding a chapter, and polishing the layout. I delivered the first copies of the second edition Friday night to the youth staff at our Christmas party.
As the table of contents below reveals, roughly one paragraph in each chapter of Ecclesiastes turned into one chapter in my book. The chapters represent what I believe to be the high points of Solomon’s reminders in Ecclesiastes. They were chosen not only to expose the vanity of life, but also to turn the reader to God for true joy under the sun.
- Vain Repetition (1:1-11)
- Looking for Life Under the Sun (Pt 1) (2:1-8)
- Looking for Life Under the Sun (Pt 2) (2:1-8)
- Enjoying the Process (2:24-26)
- Everything is Beautiful in Its Time (3:9-15)
- 15 Minutes of Fame (4:13-16)
- You Can’t Take It with You (5:13-17)
- Loathing the Process (6:1-6)
- Get Over Yourself (7:15-22)
- Following and Influencing the Man (8:1-9)
- Act Now Before It’s too Late! (9:7-10)
- Out of the Mouth of Fools (10:12-15)
- Basking in the Sun (11:7-10)
- The End of the Matter (12:13-14)
- Why Ecclesiastes Needs the Cross (1 Corinthians 15)
Get a Copy
I’m glad this part of the process is done.3 I’d gladly massage each chapter more, but that may be the perpetual tweaker in me, so this will have to do for now. Anyone can order or download a copy for themselves from my storefront on Lulu. The 242 page paperback is $12 plus tax and shipping; the PDF download is only $5.
- You read that right: I picked up the copies from FedEx; they were not delivered by FedEx. The package tracking information read “delay beyond our control,” meaning, there was snow and ice on the roads. It wasn’t all bad; I learned at least one thing, and most importantly, I got to enjoy the process. ↩
- I Twittered my excitement along with a link to the storefront on June 6, leading one friend to actually purchase a copy. Sorry, Eric. This edition should be better.↩
- Blogging frequency may not increase even though this project is complete, since it’s high time for me to turn my attention toward Augustine and repentance for our upcoming Snow Retreat. ↩
In the category of shameless plugs, I finished a three year project today with my sixty-first and final message from Ecclesiastes. Of preaching many sermons there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh, but my life has been changed as I’ve learned about, and tried to practice, enjoying the process. As I told our youth staff, part of me is sad that it’s finished, like moving away from your best friend. Though the friendship isn’t over, I’m going to miss hanging out with the Preacher.
About halfway down the list you may notice this icon that indicates the sermon manuscript is available in addition to the audio.
There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God, for apart from Him who can eat or who can have enjoyment?
I’m tweaking some three year old Ecclesiastes sermons. What follows is an illustration that needs cut from it’s current position, but seems worthy of a home somewhere. So where to put it? The void is perfect.
Searching for satisfaction under the sun is like being thirsty and:
- picking up an empty glass and trying to drink from it.
- picking up a glass full of water and then realizing it was only a dream.
- paying a fortune for a glass full of water then taking a drink only to realize that it’s salt water.
- picking up a glass full of water when the glass shatters in your hand.
- picking up a glass full of water when someone runs by and knocks it right out of your hand.
- picking up a glass full of water, drinking the cool, clear, clean, crisp refreshing water, then immediately having a fatal heart attack.
The fool loves to talk, loves to hear himself speak, loves to share his opinion. Solomon said as much in Ecclesiastes 10:14 (part of a larger paragraph on what comes out of the fool’s mouth which I preached about yesterday).
A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?
I hate to love this verse. It’s so accurate, so common, and so upsetting. The fool is verbose, meaning he’s most happy when his mouth is open. A fool multiplies words. He doesn’t just add them, he multiplies. This isn’t the first time in Ecclesiastes Solomon addressed bloviation.
Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. (5:2)
The more words, the more vanity, and what is the advantage to man? (6:11)
The fool’s mouth pours out folly. In particular he delights to declare his convictions on things he has no clue about, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? Who can predict a man’s future or what will happen on earth after his death? The obvious answer is “No one.” Wise people listen and know their limits; fools babble. They go on as know-it-alls.
Some of the most wordy people are also some of the most arrogant. They’ve so convinced themselves that they know the answers, that they have true knowledge, and no one can convince them otherwise. Yet they have no understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.
Ecclesiastes 10:14 is aimed specifically at future-tellers, at those who talk big even though they have no information and no way to get that information. But the application spills over onto all sorts of issues. For example, it fires me up and tires me out reading blogs (or comments on blogs) by people with little to no understanding and little to no humility. They write or talk like the world’s been waiting for them to arrive with the answer. But multiplied words don’t prove their argument, they demonstrate their arrogance.
Out of the mouth of fools come arrogant verbosity. At times like these my mom and Solomon agree: watch your mouth.
I’ve had more than ten days to think about resolutions for 2008 and if I put it off any longer the year will no longer be new. I’m only making two, but both are aimed at long-term life approach rather than short-term accomplishments.
Build more structure into my supplication struggle.
In assessing 2007 I mentioned my lackluster labor in scheduled, systematic prayer. To vitalize that discipline I have begun my first ever prayer journal (better at 33 than never). Though I won’t itemize my entire plan here, I have created specific daily lists in order to bathe more individuals and responsibilities in supplication. I’m already surprised (though I know I shouldn’t be) at how much longer I can sustain focus by following even a sketchy list. This is a habit I intend to keep building long after 2008 is over.
Cultivate three life adjectives: flexible, fun, and fanatical.
Some might consider this resolution too vague or unquantifiable to be of realistic profit. But it’s my aim at a Solomonic resolution and I surmise this three pronged mental paradigm will help increase my joy by minutes and hours.
In my experience these three adjectives typically like to punch each other in the throat; I’d like them to live in harmony. It is natural for me to seek out opportunities and work hard and play to win. Yet that leaves me less flexible when interrupted and less fun when involved in something I don’t see as immediately advantageous. So by striving to consciously submit to God moment by moment I hope my attitude will bend, not break. And by thinking about joy in the process I want to muster more spiritual merrymaking.
In light of the previous paragraph it may not seem like I need to whip up any additional fanaticism, but I know I’ll be more flexible and fun when redeeming every other private moment to work (reading, writing, praying, running, etc.). One modest effort to save sapped seconds will be abstaining from Google Reader until after dinner. Breaking this time frittering routine and turning attention back to toil is certain to be profitable.
Though apparently not everyone agrees, I think the new year provides a perfect opportunity to examine if there are lifestyle changes or attitude adjustments necessary to better enjoy the process (and make progress in Christlikeness). Especially in light of Ecclesiastes 9:7-10, if we’re eating our bread with dissatisfaction and dressing down and wasting life with our wife and loafing around, we may need to reshape our whole modus operandi (or at least tweak it).
Yet in light of Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 and the reality that under the sun the race doesn’t always go to the swift, maybe we wonder why try to get faster? If bread doesn’t always go to the wise, why stay up late to study? And if we might die in 15 minutes anyway, is all the wearisome effort really worth it?
The answer is Yes! It is worth it if we do it for the right reasons and pursue it in the right way. It is proper to work hard at whatever our hand finds to do. We should look for, and take advantage of every opportunity we can. So let’s resolve to do something new or something better. God ordained food for joy, so let’s resolve to get our feast on. We are obligated under God to have fun with our wife. So get one, or if you have one, resolve to stop being a sourpuss.
But–but–we must resolve to improve our joyfulness in the process not just at the end of the process. We might not succeed, but at least we can die happy trying. Fact is, if you don’t enjoy running, you won’t last longer than a few weeks on the treadmill no matter how much weight you want to lose. Achieving the goal is good, but what about the thrill of the chase? It’s easy to miss the joys along the journey because we only think about the destination. The problem is, we might never actually arrive.
So how can we make resolutions keeping in mind both Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 and 9:11-12? Here are three approaches I think Solomon would approve.
1. Seek out opportunities but submit to God.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 is a divine command to do so. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might. Redeem the time because the days are evil. Whatever you do, work heartily as for the Lord. Commit your work to the Lord. But, don’t forget that no matter how detailed your plans are the Lord directs your steps. If you get upset about that, you’ve crossed the line from serving God to directing God. But start the semi truck moving and trust that He’ll steer you in the right direction.
2. Work as hard and as smart as you can, but rely on God.
It is a sin to be slothful. Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. Don’t run aimlessly or half-heartedly. The plans of the diligent typically lead to abundance. So work harder than anyone else. Likewise, wisdom does have (relative) value over folly, so get counsel and get wisdom and work intelligently. But, don’t forget that if you work harder than anyone else, it wasn’t you, it was the grace of God in you. Use all the (righteous) means available, but depend on God.
3. Play to win every time but enjoy the process.
Solomon is not anti-competition. He certainly isn’t telling the mighty warriors just to lay down their swords. Winning the race is still the goal, triumphing in battle really is better, obtaining food is important, making a profit can be good, and earning influence has great benefit. He isn’t saying those things are bad, he’s saying don’t depend on those things as your ultimate joy. Pick up the pace to obtain the prize. But remember the breeze on your face as you scamper around the track is intended for your gladness as much, if not more so, than finishing first.
In light of the fact that we don’t have the power to control the present or the wisdom to predict the future, we should fear God, work hard, and ETP. If we do that, we’ll not only have joy on the earthly road but eternal joy will be our destination. Fearing God is the only sure way to have our best life now and forever.