PEWAUKEE’S DRESS CODE

Neal Pollard

Pewaukee is a small city in southeast Wisconsin, home to a high school whose most famous alumni is probably Houston Texan NFL superstar J.J. Watt. But the high school is not in the news due to the recent philanthropic gesture of Watt in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but for another decision that resulted in a media tidal wave against the Waukesha County school district. Specifically, reaction is against a school policy “requiring all ‘dress-wearing’ students and guests to send photos of their attire before they can buy tickets to the Pewaukee High School homecoming dance next month” (Annysa Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 9/15/17). Though the policy actually was enacted in 2015, the email reminder to families  last week created a backlash from some students and parents. One mother complained, “The girls are essentially being held responsible for the wayward thoughts (administrators) think boys have” (ibid.).  There are policies aimed at boys, too, but the school superintendent “said it was girls who forced the district to impose the pre-dance check by pushing the boundaries of appropriate attire at school formals” (ibid.).  While some parents seem upset that the school district is not trusting their judgment, others seem not to want to be told what to do or to have arbitrary boundaries set.

Pewaukee High School has boundaries about clothing. Dads and moms, have you taken the time to consider what that is for yourselves and for your children? When Paul speaks to women about clothing and uses such words as “proper,” “modestly,” and “discreetly” (1 Tim. 2:9), have you thought about what that will mean within your family? We have such a golden opportunity as stewards of influence, godliness, purity, and modesty. The world benefits from distinctive Christian living that reflects itself in a variety of ways, including modesty. “Dress code” is a phrase often used in a pejorative, contemptible way, but all of us have one. May ours reveal a thoughtful premeditation toward reflecting the glory of our wonderful Redeemer.

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WE ARE RACING UP A MOUNTAIN

Neal Pollard
Ueli Steck was the world’s greatest free-soloist climbing. He was routinely snatching up new records in the part of the sport of mountain climbing that is most dangerous. It was not unusual for him to attempt dangerous routes without ropes and other safety gear. The Swiss alpinist was, as you would imagine, about as fit as a human being can be, and he attempted what most cannot (and would not). He was described by friends and fellow competitors as focused, deliberate, and thoughtful. He did not climb for the beauty of the nature around him–which he often only briefly glimpsed. No, he was a mountain marathoner. Speed climbing, as it is considered, was something Steck wanted to apply to higher mountains in the Himalayas–the final frontier for mountain climbers. He did, setting several records in the loftiest part of the world. The 2015 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year died earlier this year doing a climb on one of the western routes up Mount Everest, without supplemental oxygen, falling 1,000 meters during an early morning climb.

While you and I would not consider ourselves world class athletes, we are in a race (cf. 1 Cor. 9:26; Phil. 2:16; 2 Tim. 4:7). How often does it seem not only like a steep race course, but a perilous one, too? Many times, it will seem tempting to simply give up the trek toward heaven. What it takes for us to succeed comes right out of Steck’s “playbook”–focus, deliberation, and thoughtfulness. It is easy to forget why we are climbing. Or, we fail to properly plan or execute our plans. Or, maybe we just do not think about what the purpose of our rapid climb up this mountain is. We are not climbing for earthly recognition or monetary reward. Of course, we are not going solo, either. We have each other for support. Even when we feel alone in our meteoric ascent, we will safely and triumphantly summit as we rely on our Savior! God has given us the tools, resources, and make up to endure exceedingly difficult and complicated turns in the course upon which we find ourselves. Time is going by so quickly, but the way does not get less steep or challenging. Let us keep our resolve to race up the mountain until we get there and not put ourselves into a position to fall! We can, like others before us (Heb. 12:1), succeed!

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Photo of the late Euli Steak

The Eye Of The Beholder

Neal Pollard

The theme of our recently completed lectureship was, “Every Man Did What Was Right In His Own Eyes.” This seems to be the summary statement of this entire period of Bible history. It is interesting that this idea shows up more than in just the two verses where the statement appears (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Samson wanted the woman of Timnah because “she looked good to” him (Judges 14:3,7; literally, “she was right in his eyes”). In reality, she was a loose, treacherous, and idolatrous woman, but she seemed right to him. In that dark story about the Levite man, the elderly Ephraimite man, the Levite’s concubine and the Ephraimite’s virgin daughter, the old man, seeking to placate the wicked Benjamites, offered the women to them “to do with them whatever” they wished (Judges 19:24; literally, “the good in your eyes”). Obviously, what was right in these men’s eyes was reprehensible and vile. It is one of the most extreme examples of wickedness recorded in the Bible.

Elsewhere, the Bible says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15a), and “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2a). We often think things seem right when they are far from it (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; 18:17).  After talking about those who mix up right and wrong and good and evil, Isaiah tells us why they do this. He warns that they “are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21).

In the world, the church, and our own lives, we are tempted to do what is right in our own eyes. We justify habits, relationships, desires, religious practices, lifestyles, and choices about which God warns in His Word by ignoring that and rationalizing, rewording, and reframing them. We use emotional arguments. We twist Scripture. In the end, when we do these things, we reject God’s authority and seek to become the standard ourselves. The book of Judges was written, in part, to show us what happens when we do it and how God feels when we do it.  The well-worn phrase goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That may be. But right and wrong is not such as is in the eye of the beholder. That is determined by the One who possesses “the all-seeing eye” (Proverbs 15:3).

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My Social Media Pledge

Neal Pollard

  • I will try to use social media to encourage and edify others (1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Cor. 14:26b).
  • I will avoid the shocking, inflammatory, and divisive tactics increasingly characteristic of S.M. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10; Prov. 12:18; Prov. 15:2,4; etc.).
  • I will ask, “Would I say this in the way I am saying this?,” if face to face with this person or this group of people (Prov. 23:7).
  • I will not use Social Media to pick fights or put people on the defensive (cf. 2 Tim. 3:1ff).
  • I will not be Nellie Nitpicker and Contrary Charlie. About. Every. Single. Little. Thing.
  • I will respect that my connections have connections that are not Christians and I want to be sure to say what I say in accordance with Ephesians 4:15 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
  • I will sever connections with individuals who consistently display a lack of self-control with their words and attitudes. Souls are too precious.
  • I will abhor the thought of doing what would put Christ to an open shame (cf. Heb. 10:29).
  • I will double-check myself to avoid bragging and self-promotion (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
  • I will conquer the desire to have the last word, pile on, or fight fire with fire (Mat. 5:39-42).
  • I will not let the false teaching, bad attitude, or meanness of another be my rationale for behaving in a way that brings Christ shame or jeopardizes my own soul (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27).
  • I will always be trying to set the table for productive evangelism or retrieving the wayward (Jas. 5:19-20; Col. 4:6).
  • I will always try to portray the doctrinal, moral, and ethical values of my Lord, thus avoiding reflecting and glorifying whatever values conflict with His (Mat. 5:14-16).
  • I will try to promote, not pummel, the bride of Jesus, appreciate, not attack, the elders, and unite, not untie, wherever possible.
  • I will shun passive aggression in myself first, but also in others.
  • I will deal with dirty laundry in its appropriate way, which is not on Social Media.
  • I will actively try to show grace to everyone, including cantankerous curmudgeons.
  • I will, foremost, realize my own imperfections and try every day I use Social Media to do so in the way Jesus would, if He had Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, a blog, LinkedIn, etc. In a way, through you and me, He does. I will let that sink in!

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Accept Jesus As Your Personal Savior

Neal Pollard

The phrase is abused by those in denominations. With it, they suggest that such is the totality of one’s responsibility in order to receive salvation. It is synonymous with the idea of the “faith only” doctrine of Christendom. Yet, it is biblical to the core. Observe.

   “Accept.” Jesus says, “He who rejects Me…has one who judges him” (John 12:48). We accept Jesus when we humbly receive the implanted word (James 1:21). 1 Timothy 1:15 says, “It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” We must accept Jesus’ will as well as the assertions He makes. The question is, “Have we fully accepted Jesus at the point of our belief in Him?” No! He commands us to repent (Luke 13:3-5) and be baptized (Mark 16:16). Refuse those commands and you have not accepted Jesus. Can we take only part of Him and be whole?

     “Accept Jesus as your…Savior.”  He came to this world for that purpose. Before Jesus’ birth, Joseph was told, “You shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). Jesus is identified as the Savior throughout the epistles. 2 Timothy 1:5 and Titus 3:5 both say, “He saved us” by His mercy, purpose and grace. Salvation is the common need (Rom. 3:10,23) and there is no other way but Jesus to meet it (Acts 4:12). We cannot stop at accepting who Jesus is, but must further accept what Jesus has done.

“Accept Jesus as your Personal Savior.” The Bible teaches that Jesus’ redemptive work at Calvary was for the whole world (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). Yet, will the whole world be saved? No! In fact, most will not be saved (Matt. 7:13-14). Even some religious folks will be lost (Matt. 7:21-23). Therefore, accepting Jesus must be done at the personal level! must act upon the saving knowledge of Jesus. As I will be held personally accountable for my life (2 Cor. 5:10), I cannot blame my parents, children, friends, people at church, people in the world, or even my mate for my disobedience. In my own mind, I must accept what the Bible says about Jesus and do what Jesus says do. Nobody can do that for me (Rom. 10:9).

The baggage surrounding the phrase is most unfortunate. The facts, as presented here,  must be understood. It is not as our religious friends teach, who share that as the totality of our responsibility, and yet it is true that each of us–while we have breath in the body and the hope of heaven–must accept Jesus as our personal Savior!

By The Name of Jesus

 

EVERY NAME IMPORTANT

Neal Pollard

Today marks 16 years since the most infamous and iconic attack rocked our collective consciousness. Each year, there is a solemn ceremony conceived in such wisdom and executed with a poignancy that never abates. That is the reading of the names of those who died in the 911 Attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. The soft music playing behind the readers accents the mood, punctuated by every reader mentioning the name of a family member they lost that fateful day. September 11th resonates with us so deeply because it was an attack on our country, but also because of the death of each and every individual who perished that day. Behind each name are family members, memories, joy and sorrow. Each person, in such a dramatic, untimely way, was taken from time into eternity. God loved and loves each one with an infinite, eternal love and wanted each one to be saved. Christ gave His life to provide salvation for each one. The Bible was written for the benefit of each one. The Lord’s church was meant to pursue and teach each one.

Though each individual is numbered among such a large group, around 3,000 of them, each one means more than the whole world (Mat. 16:26). This touching memorial is a tribute to the overall value of human life. It reminds us that we are surrounded by individuals all possessing an eternal soul.  Everyone you see today is heading toward eternity. Each one will either hear “well done” or “depart from me” (cf. Mat. 25:31ff). What is said about God’s attitude toward those victims specially remembered today is true of every person we meet and see today.

May we have our hearts stirred by the sobriety of that truth. May we never lose sight of our urgent responsibility to share the message of Christ with the people in our lives. As moving as the ceremony that occurs each year in New York City on September 11th, we really cannot imagine what the Day of Judgment will be like. Each person who ever lived, including you and me, will hear our name called (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). As important as our own name is, every name is important. Let us pray that this realization will propel us to tell the best news of human history and help someone find the only way, truth, and life.

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Having Real Wasabi

Jackson Davidson

Who here likes wasabi?  Who here even knows what wasabi is?  It’s a spicy, green plant used in or with many Japanese foods like sushi, and chances are,  you’ve never had the real thing.  Only thirteen percent of wasabi is the real thing.  Most is just horseradish colored green.  And the reason that most is fake is that there just isn’t enough to go around.   Wasabi is one of the hardest foods to cultivate. One plant takes fifteen months to grow.  If there is too little sunlight, the plant won’t grow.  Too much, and the plant withers and dies. Aso, the pure spring water that flows through the plants has to be 13-18 degrees Celsius.

In many ways, this is like denominations.  Many churches claim to be the right church and make it look quite convincing.  Others try to be right, often times trading out the truth for opinion.  Matthew 24:24 says,  “For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive”

We should also consider Psalms 18:30,  which says “as for God, His way is perfect, the Lord’s word is flawless, He shields all who take refuge in Him.”

We have to be careful to make sure we as the church are teaching the truth, God’s perfect way, and are Wasabi in its pure form, and not Wasabi that is just green horseradish.

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Why Do You Serve?

Neal Pollard

Has a preacher ever been motivated by finance, popularity, or fame? Has an elder ever been motivated by power, influence, or notoriety? Has a Christian ever served in any way for notice, accolades, or to satisfy pride? In individual cases, it’s so hard to tell (ultimately, it’s impossible). But, knowing human nature, we would have to say motivation can be tainted and corrupted.

Paul says as much of preachers, that they preached Christ from envy, strife, and selfish ambition (Phil. 1:15,17). Greed propels some preachers (1 Th. 2:5; 2 Pet. 2:3,14). Woe to the preacher who falls into traps like those! He may do harm in this life, but it cannot compare to the ultimate harm he does to himself and others. Peter calls out elders who he says serve for sordid gain or on a power trip (1 Pet. 5:2-3). Woe to the elder who serve from such a base motive! He will not joyfully anticipate the appearing of the Chief Shepherd (cf. 1 Pet. 5:4)! Christians have been led by their appetites and an earthly mindset (Phil. 3:19). Woe to the Christian who serves God for selfish reasons. Such will not be able to successfully endure their spiritual race.

Sometimes, our words and actions betray our motives and intentions. So often, what gets in the way is self— self-service, self-will, self-interest, self-indulgence, self-importance, selfish ambition. It leaves a sour taste and sounds ugly when said. It is manifestly unattractive to even read the words. It is detestable when witnessed in others. But “self” is such an impediment to spiritual service.

I don’t know why anyone else is serving Jesus. But I need to be careful to examine myself. How terrible to let my speech and actions be the cause of anyone questioning what moves me to render any act or service. Let our goal be to live so selflessly that no one has legitimate cause to ask why we do what we do in God’s Kingdom. Paul contrasts Timothy with others, saying, “ For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:21). Let’s be a Timothy, moved by a genuine concern for others (Phil. 2:20). That’s just what this cynical world needs to see!

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Open Mic At Bear Valley

Neal Pollard

It is one of the preacher or teacher’s public speaking nightmares. And it happened to me yesterday morning between Bible class and worship services. I had no clue until I began to be approached by multiple members. My wireless mic was “hot,” and I was visiting with several people and, true to form, I was having plenty to say. As far as I know, I said nothing personal or embarrassing, but after I was informed of my amplified voice I began thinking back to who I spoke to and what I said. My private conversations were being broadcast throughout the auditorium, foyer, nursery, and beyond.

The Bible gives us some insights into what the day of judgment will be like. How much is accommodative language and how much depicts what it will be like is something we must leave until we are there. Yet, there are some statements made that are not open to interpretation. Solomon writes, “For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecc. 12:14). There is appointed a day when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus” (Rom. 2:16; cf. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10). Jesus taught, “But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Mat. 12:36-37). Clearly, the words we speak—even those which are not public—are subject to the universal judgment at the end of time.

With that in mind, I want to be more careful to control that hard-to-tame tongue (cf. Jas. 3:2ff). Lying, gossiping, complaining, bitter, slanderous, angry, malicious, backbiting, or jealous words can flow freely, especially in private conversations. I may think I am covered by the cloak of secrecy or privacy, but how would I speak if I knew that everything I said what being broadcast for everyone to hear? If I could think of my speech in that way, how much more positively would I speak of others, of my own circumstances, of the church, and of my God?

Yesterday was good for me! If all of us could experience an unplanned moment like that at least once, it might cause us to reflect on what we are saying when we think that those around us can’t (or won’t) hear. It might help us live soberly, righteously, and godly in view of the end.

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REDUCING RIOTOUS RACE RHETORIC

Neal Pollard

At various times when I was growing up, I called Hawkinsville, Rockmart, Cairo, Sylvester, Franklin, and Hinesville, Georgia, home. While my dad was once fired from a congregation for converting a black woman, race relations in those rural towns—at least among us children—were excellent. While High School was very cliquish (along a great many lines more significant than racial ones), many of us had close, great relationships across racial lines. Certainly, there were instances of prejudice—from every race toward every race—but it was not characteristic. Perhaps it was because we were not constantly obsessed with it. We just got along.

Are you getting sick of hearing politicians, the media, and even social media (including from some members of the church) fanning the flames of dissension on this topic? I am. From my imperfect observations, I see the following:

Less Productive:

  • Placing blame on any one side
  • Having our minds closed to discussion
  • Stereotyping and pigeon-holing
  • Guilt-tripping and manipulating
  • Living in the past rather than dealing with the present
  • Categorizing everyone on the basis of their skin color
  • Blaming or praising based on geographic or political boundaries
  • Cherry-picking historical incidents to validate one’s point of view or assertion
  • Thinking our personal experience is indicative of everyone else’s

More Productive:

  • Eradicating concepts like “predominantly white” or “predominantly black” congregations
  • Showing Christ-like love and acceptance to people who look and sound different from us
  • Showing hospitality and associating with people of every race and walk of life (publicly and privately)
  • Getting to the point where we don’t associate anyone with their race or ethnicity
  • Teaching our children to choose friends and spouses based on the content of their character rather than color of skin
  • Extending the “Golden Rule” to race relations like we should every other issue
  • Selecting preachers, deacons, elders, and other church leaders with no regard to anything so superficial as skin color

The Bible says that God made every race (ethnos—nation, culture) from one man (Acts 17:26). The Bible says the whole earth was populated from Noah’s three sons (Gen. 9:19). The Bible speaks of the “human race” (Jas. 3:7), and doesn’t emphasize a red, yellow, black, or white race. The Bible says that heaven will be populated by people of “every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues” (Rev. 7:9). Let us make sure, especially as Christians, that we are not fanning the flames of division, animosity, controversy, and hatred by treating this important subject in a way that takes people’s eyes off of Jesus or the church’s true mission! Surely this will reach more people of every nation, tribe, people, and tongue.

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