Categories
New Testament Christianity restoration Restoration Movement Uncategorized

A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

 

There are just too many voices in the world today muddying the waters when it comes to 21st Century Christianity. In fact, the term “Christianity” doesn’t mean much to the average person. In fact, the average person will most likely have several friends who carry this title and they know based on their morals— they’re not really different. Sadly it’s a description that doesn’t describe much, other than an individual that believes in God. This word has been tragically stripped of what is the most rewarding life you could possibly live. There’s simply no higher calling, there is no greater purpose in life, and you just can’t beat the retirement plan.

Now let’s do something to help the seeking world out.

Let’s make it our priority to understand the church in such a way that we can simplify her mission and her origin.

Here are two terms that will help

  1. The term “restoration” may sound similar to “reformation”, but the two terms could not be more contrary to each other. Restoration is an attempt to restore the church to the pattern we find in the New Testament, while reformation is a reforming of what currently exists. It’s a modification or addition which creates something new entirely. The Old Testament is filled with the pleas of the prophets for the people to restore their relationships with God.

2.  The definition of the word “denomination” is evidence that restoration is not only    possible, but needed. Denomination, in the religious world, describes a branch off of an  original. Any branch coming off of the New Testament church, is simply not it.

Five Facts About The Lord’s Church

  1. The NT church was established by Jesus, not Luther, Henry the 8th, Calvin, Smith, or Wesley
  2. The NT church was established in Jerusalem, not Oxford, London, or Amsterdam
  3. In NT times people were told to believe in Jesus, repent of their sins,  be baptized by a total immersion of water, and to live faithfully (Acts 2:38, 16:30-31, 2:16, Mark 16:15-16)
  4. Christians in the NT met on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper, Acts 20:7
  5. The NT church was a united church, while denominationalism is, by it’s very nature, divided.

If the church you are a part of can say the same, you can be confident that it is the church that Jesus established. If this is not what the church you are a part of teaches and practices, then perhaps this will be some information that will help you begin a life changing search to find God’s will for your life.

church

Categories
Bible parables soul-winning truth Uncategorized

Mysterious Seeds

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

In recent weeks, packets of seeds have been mailed to apparently random homes across the country. Dozens of folks received the seeds, which have Chinese labels but have not been confirmed as originating from China. A few days ago, the USDA confirmed that the seeds were harmless but still cautioned recipients not to plant them. The seed packets included mint, sage, cabbage, roses, and other plants. One working theory is that this was part of a “brushing scam,” where people receive unsolicited items from sellers who then post fake reviews (Joseph Wilkerson, msn.com, “Mysterious China seeds received by Americans identified by USDA”). But, given the current political climate, skepticism–and concern, suspicion, and even fear– abound!

One of the major projects Kathy has begun in our backyard is a “cottage garden.” You can research the origin and history of these gardens, which started in England perhaps as far back as the Medieval period. These gardens have a mix of flowers, herbs, and bushes, and the more elaborate of these gardens have trees, bees, and even livestock. Ours is simpler, with climbing roses on a trellis, boxwoods in the middle, herbs planted throughout, but included among the many packets of seeds planted was a mix called bee feed.  It has been fun to see a variety of mysterious seeds appear, like California poppies, Chinese forget me not, Coreopsis, and Sweet Alyssum. We’re not sure where the tall fringed bluebells came from, but it’s incredible to see such an eclectic mix growing and thriving and demonstrating Genesis 1:11 before our eyes. 

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches several parables involving seeds. In one, a man sows wheat seed in his field, then his enemy sows darnel, a weed resembling wheat. Only after they started growing could the two be differentiated. The landowner instructs his slaves to let them both grow up and separate them at harvest time (Mat. 13:24-30). This parable illustrates the lives of the righteous and unrighteous, whose destiny will be sorted out at the judgment (Jesus explains the parable in Mat. 13:36-43). It certainly can apply to true and false teachers (lawless stumbling blocks), who can seem similar but are also distinguishable to the discerning.

Jesus also teaches the parable of the mustard seed (Mat. 13:31-33), which shows God’s power to do great things through seemingly humble deeds attempted in true faith. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the parable of the sower, the soils, and the seed. Luke 8:11 identifies the seed as the Word of God. The soils represent the different conditions of heart, three of which are futile and one of which is fertile. The sower is the one who spreads the word to people. 

Then, there is the parable of the seed (Mark 4:26-29). A man casts seed on the soil, and then gets to behold the marvel of how it transforms from seed to sprout, the soil producing it from blade to head to mature grain in the head. Then, he harvests it. The power is not in the sower, who is not around (or, in the parable, awake) when the seed produces. The growth of the seed is a marvel even to the sower. Where is the power? In the seed!

There are certainly some malicious ideas and teaching out there in the world. Sometimes, even truth can be shared from improper motivation. But, God’s Word is a seed which can produce incredible things in a heart and life that is good and fruitful. Have you ever seen someone who seemed like a poor candidate to become a Christian, much less become a force for good in God’s Kingdom? How does that happen? We can talk about planters and waterers, but God causes the growth (1 Cor. 3:6). You may not be an eloquent, sophisticated Bible teacher or soul-winner. You may feel you are unskilled.  But, when you share God’s Word with others, you will see the wonders of this mysterious process. It has been said that persuasion happens in the absence of the persuader, as the Word gets to work on a heart. The power is in the seed! Let’s be about planting it however, wherever, and to whomever we can, then witness the marvel of the seed producing in the recipients’ lives. It’s God’s plan! It works in mysterious ways! 

seeds

Categories
God (nature) patience time

Outside Time 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Our Creator is eternal. Hence, he has and will always exist. Having no beginning, He will never have an end. It hurts our feeble brains to try and comprehend this truth, but we accept it, seeing it with an “eye of faith.” Time is a concept held only by the mortal construct of an immortal God. Time means nothing to Him. Since that is the case, a couple of truth becomes evident.

Since God is outside time, He can work out what is best in our life.  From our perspective, life is a complex picture puzzle with pieces collected over some 70 or 80 years (cf. Psalm 90.10). Since Adam opened “Pandora’s Box” of sin, those pieces of the puzzle handed to us do not always make sense. Sin may cause a single bit even to hurt us. Yet, God’s Providence ensures it works out in accordance to His Divine Will (Romans 8.28). God knows how the completed puzzle picture looks. No piece escapes His observation. So, even if a part was not what He had hoped because sin marred the edges, He still ensures that those pieces fall into the right place. When we leave this world, perhaps, we will see the completed picture too. Like the apostle Paul, we might gain clarity before our departure. Paul had a good grasp of his life as he summed it up for Timothy (2 Timothy 4.6-8). Hopefully, we will speak as confidently as Paul concerning our future when granted the clarity of life’s impending end.

Since God is outside time, He is longsuffering. I do not seek to diminish God’s love in making this case. I merely emphasize what Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3.8-9:

But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (NASB)

Contextually, the two ideas are related. God’s lack of concept of time equals longsuffering. Can you see how that makes sense? Would it not be easier to be patient with someone if you had no idea of time? We lose patience with others since we feel we can quantify progress with a predetermined amount of time: “I asked you to do this a week ago, and you still have not completed it?” (Can you not hear the frustration in that question? Maybe you even read it in your mind with a voice of exasperation.) Yet, time does not constrain God. He sees the beginning and end of our life simultaneously. Thus, that one becoming a worker at the eleventh hour is paid the same wage as those laborers working all day (cf. Matthew 20.1-15).

We could give other examples to illustrate the benefits of God’s existence outside time, such as how that quality of God enabled prophets to write with 100% about events that would occur hundreds of years after the seer’s lifetime. Hopefully, though, we have considered enough to enrich our faith. Yes, God’s existence outside time enables His Providence to work flawlessly and suffer each of us long. We serve an amazing God!

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Categories
heart mind thoughts

Guard Duty

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

What does it mean to “guard our hearts?” The word “guard” means to watch over in order to protect and control. So we’re supposed to protect our hearts…but not the physical heart. This isn’t an article on cholesterol, so what do we mean by heart?

Scripture uses the word “heart” when referring to our inner self. The center of emotion. What we believe in, the things that motivate our actions all come from the heart. We must protect/guard our hearts (center of emotion).

What do we guard it from? Proverbs 4 tells us. But there’s something important that we should understand. You can guard your heart from good as well as evil. People can and will protect their heart from letting God’s word change them. As Christians we can even build a wall that will keep us from making the proper changes in our lives.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” If we wish to have character we must guard our hearts. But this verse is kind of vague if we read it by itself. The context of Proverbs 4:23 is the key to understanding, So, how do we guard our hearts?

Fill your heart with God’s Word (20-22). Once it is filled, guard your heart that is now full of truth (23). Guard it by paying attention to the way you are living your life (24-27), making sure that you stay in line with the truth that is in your heart.

The writer then goes into detail on what actions we must be guarding:

Our Speech (24). “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. “ The things that we say are a direct reflection of what’s in our heart. If we lash out in anger, that anger comes from the heart. If we have a habit of speaking evil, the source is the heart.

Our Eyes (25).  “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” The only way to properly guard the truth in our hearts is by constantly looking to God. Recognize the end goal, with “eyes on the prize” (Matt. 14).

Our Mind (26), “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Think about the direction that you are heading. Is it closer to God, or further away? Our minds must have the knowledge to know what is right, and then the willpower and self control to stay true to the path of salvation.

Our Direction (27), “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” As we ponder the path of our feet, we must then turn our feet away from evil so as to keep our direction headed towards an eternity with God.

Heart failure has a variety of different symptoms, including shortness of breath, swelling, coughing, confusion and memory loss, rapid weight gain, and fatigue. Heart failure increases the risk of death and hospitalization, and many times these symptoms go unnoticed. Spiritual heart failure symptoms can also go unnoticed. But these include lack of proper desire, sinful speech, no self control, weak character and a lack of prayer and study.

If we fail to guard our hearts as Christians, we will never be able to experience an eternity with God the Father.

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Categories
encouragement

Encouragement

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

How important is encouragement? Winston Churchill understood its importance. It kept the morale of Great Britain high enough to not only survive the Blitzkrieg, but also link together as a country to defeat the Axis Powers. Hitler understood its importance – with it (by way of propaganda) he brought his country out of a decade or so long depression. Even the world’s worst people understood the value of encouragement. 

In the church, it is no different. Only, instead of facing a corrupt and violent world power, we face the Father of Lies and his army. This is a much more daunting enemy – but that is not all. We face discouragement in the church, we face rivalries, bitter jealousy, division over doctrinal matters, personality clashes, etc. 

Sometimes we find ourselves overwhelmed when we face these things – and for good reason! But this is why encouragement is so vital. England faced incendiary bombs and widespread death of their fellow countrymen. Germany faced severe poverty. What did it take to help these countries succeed? Encouragement. What will it take for us to overcome the challenges of being a Christian? Encouragement. 

In all of these cases, boosting morale did not magically happen. A respected individual got in front of the people and commended and encouraged them – this made all of the difference. Notice how Britain did during Churchill’s time as Prime Minister: they rallied themselves and helped defeat the Axis Powers in a short period of time. 

As Christians, we have to be the voice of encouragement for our brothers and sisters. When the church is unified toward a single cause and stands together for truth, she is far more successful than one bogged down in discouragement and strife. 

As we go about our lives, let us employ the mindset of encouragement, while seeking to create unity and high morale among our family. It may just make the difference in the eternal state of many people. 

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 These. 5:11).

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The motivational Winston Churchill
Categories
church church (nature) church growth purpose unity

The Tie That Binds 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

When it comes to the families that make up the church, what ties us together is a common bright future. While every family has it’s differences, one constant remains— the church. All strive to follow those guidelines laid out in Scripture. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “And I’m SURE of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

The writer speaks with assurance, and that confidence is well placed. From His-story we see that God always completes His projects. He never dreams, He creates. He decided to create the world and here it is. He decided to save the world, and here we are.

Paul also would write in Romans 7-8 that the flesh tends to get in the way of the spiritual. God is perfect, but we’re not. That’s what makes us a work in progress. Aren’t we thankful that God provides the solutions to “fix” us up?

We’re involved in a great work because there simply is no better work than what is being done by His church. That being said, many of us struggle with overcomplicating things. We try to make sense of our individual lives, and when we leave God out it all becomes a discouraging battle. Where’s the peace? Joy? Confidence? Maybe it was left behind when we left God’s path. Thankfully God came down to earth years ago to teach us everything we need to know. We see that in His interactions with people. Even His twelve original followers were an odd group.

Each had a diverse background. Some were Fishermen and some tax collectors.

Each one had a unique personality too! They ranged from timid to assertive.

Each one had spiritual battles from greed to crippling doubt.

Yet each one rallied under His leadership and were united through a common hope.

What’s changed? Not much.

The personalities, talents, backgrounds, and flaws mixed together create a unique blend that make up each one of us. Yet, here we are rallied under His leadership, united in common hope.

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Uncategorized

JETHRO

via JETHRO

Categories
leaders leadership spiritual maturity spirituality

JETHRO

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Jethro is one of my favorite Old Testament people. His efforts in Exodus 18 seem to be what he’s remembered most for. Yet, he is quite an impressive person from the time we meet him in the beginning of the book of Exodus.

  • Jethro was an appreciative man (Ex. 2:20). Moses met Jethro’s family after fleeing from the Pharaoh’s wrath following Moses’ murder of an Egyptian taskmaster. Moses helps Jethro’s seven daughters by fending off some mischievous shepherds and caring for the man’s sheep and family’s water needs. When Jethro heard of this, he asked his daughters, “Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Jethro was eager to quickly, tangibly show his thanks for Moses’ kindness.
  • Jethro was a spiritual man (Ex. 2:16; 3:1). One of the first facts we learn about the man is that he is “the priest of Midian.” He likely was the chief representative of the people in religious sacrifice, though it seems that when Moses meets him he has not yet learned who the true and only God is. That realization comes later (Ex. 18:10-11), but his role as spiritual leader is introduced to us from the beginning though with no details of it in the text.
  • Jethro was an accommodating man (Ex. 4:18). When the time came and Moses heeded God’s bidding to confront the Pharaoh, it meant separating himself from his work and living arrangements in Midian. Moses pleaded with his father-in-law, and Jethro made that easy for him, telling him, “Go in peace.” Jacob’s father-in-law had not been so kind. What a contrast in this man who saw the bigger picture and made his son-in-law’s departure that much easier.
  • Jethro was a sensible man (Ex. 18). This is the quality of the man about which we have heard most. Jethro’s appeal to Moses’ common sense, to get help from the people in judging the people, has served as a role model in spiritual leadership for centuries. Jethro could see the effect of the old, broken system on both Moses and the people. He sized it up, saying, “The thing that you are doing is not good” (17). But, a sensible man does more than raise the specter of the problem. He offers a solution (19-23), and it works beautifully (24-26).

One of the marvel’s of the Bible’s inspiration is seeing the supporting cast of men and women whose lives crossed the people we know best in Scripture. Moses was perhaps the most prominent figure of Old Testament history, so those whose lives he touched show up at several points. Jethro is one of the most interesting of them all.

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Categories
Bible study cancel culture mind political correctness study

The Virtue of an Investigative Mindset 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Socrates famously said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” Obviously, Socrates did not say that one cannot learn since that would sabotage his career as a teacher and philosopher. Instead, Socrates meant one could not take what he believes for granted, understanding that his “knowledge” may be incorrect. Socrates told us always to investigate. There is a certain humility arising from this mindset.

Consider an example of two such people who questioned: Copernicus and Galileo. For how many hundreds of years were people taught that the earth was the center of the universe before Copernicus showed them otherwise? Even so, Catholicism banned Copernicus’ book after his death. Within a few decades, Galileo, who assumed Copernicus’ mantle, stood trial for teaching the same heliocentric model. Galileo was forced by the Catholic Church to recant his life’s work. Yet, we know how the story ends. The Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe, embraced by Catholicism, would not withstand future scrutiny and would be abandoned, vindicating both Copernicus and Galileo.

This virtue of the investigative mindset should not surprise Christians engaged in a study of God’s Word. We are encouraged to be noble Bereans, checking what we hear by the standard of Scripture (Acts 17.11). Furthermore, we must test the spirits to see whether they are of God (1 John 4.1). There is a warning to us that we should reject even an angel’s message if it is contrary to the revealed Gospel (Galatians 1.8). The father of lies is Satan, who used one lie to murder humanity (John 8.44). Since he works to deceive, and his ministers can take on the appearance of servants of righteousness, Paul encourages us to take our confidence in our weaknesses, which highlight God’s strength (2 Corinthians 11.13-15, 30).

Unfortunately, we seem to live in an era encouraging lockstep conformity in thought. There are those calling this “progress.” Critics rightfully call it “cancel culture,” pointing to a desire of “social justice warriors” to cancel contrarian viewpoints. If beliefs can only persist within an ideological vacuum, how is it any different from Catholicism forcing Galileo to recant? It is not. So, those ironically crying “fascism” in the streets act as the brownshirts of Hitler’s fascism in Nazi Germany. (I apply this truth secularly and politically since it is evident on the news and in the streets.)

In regards to politics, of course, the end is inconsequential for the Christian, since he or she must submit to the governing authority (Romans 13). Note we are not told to waste our time trying the political spirits, but those purporting to be spiritual. It may be that in making a stand against false religious doctrine, though, that we will enter into conflict with a political ideology glorifying what God calls abomination and permitting infanticide. However, that is not our principal task.

Praise God that our struggle for wisdom is much simpler than that of Socrates. After all, we believe in an infallible God who gave us His Truth within the Bible (John 17.17). We can admit our ignorance of what that Word says and test those things we hear from preachers, but we are not left to grope blindly for truth. Indeed, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”  (Proverbs 9.10 NASB). Ultimately, it comes down to adopting the mindset of Paul, who determined to know nothing except Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2.2).

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Categories
communication

One Of The Hardest Disciplines To Master

Bulletin Article For Lehman Avenue (7/26/20)

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Neal Pollard

Friendships, businesses, marriages, organizations, and churches all suffer when this fails. There are many more ways to do it wrong than right. But, it is the lifeline of every important relationship, from God to mankind to the smallest child. Here are some suggestions that can help us all improve in it.

C–orrespond. It is not communication if only one side is doing it. At times, we send the message that a person is not important or valued if their email, text, or phone call is not followed up on. Likewise, a relationship cannot be strong where only one side is talking.

O–penness. We may not know how to disagree, correct, or suggest something to someone without fearing that it will escalate, be taken the wrong way, or just be unpleasant. So, we may mask criticisms, feelings, suggestions, or complaints so effectively that the other person is unaware of how we feel. Each of us need to be approachable and reasonable so that others feel free to be open with us. “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed” (Prov. 27:5). 

M–anage. Sometimes, we fail to communicate (especially by phone, email, or other electronic means) because a person too frequently reaches out to us or consumes a lot of our time. It is important to maintain balance and keep control of our own resources like time and productivity. Most of us have several people and obligations in our lives and cannot let one or a few take up all of our time (Eph. 5:16). 

M–odel. Take the first step. Show others by example how to effectively communicate. Learn and grow, then turn and show. Read the gospels and see how Jesus communicated. He is the great example (1 Pet. 2:21). 

U–nity. “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Communication allows us to know what others are thinking, whether they are in agreement or disagreement. Unity is forged through communication. Division thrives in miscommunication or the failure to communicate. How bound together can homes, churches, friendships, and workforces be where communication is lacking?

N–otice. Some of the best communication occurs when we are tuned in to people. In face to face conversation, observing body language and tone of voice. On the phone, listening for verbal cues and clues. In written correspondence (messages and emails), discerning what the main point is. Communication is at least as much about being an effective listener as it is about getting our message across clearly. Great communicators are attuned to others. 

I–mportant. Good communicators make sure that everyone at work, church, school, home, and the like feel valued. Avoid being selective and making only rich, powerful, pretty, or smart people (as we judge it) feel important. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). Should we be?

C–ourtesy. How much does it cost to be kind, yet what dividends can it pay in relationships? Being responsive sends such a powerful message. So does being ignored. The Golden Rule is simple: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). 

A–dapt. Everyone has their preferred methods of communication as well as those they dislike. Be guided by how others prefer to communicate and try to accommodate as you are able. It’s not fair to expect everyone to communicate with you only in the way you prefer. This is an example of Paul’s being all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:19-22). 

T–imely. Delay becomes disregarded at some point. Procrastination is the thief of time, but also the robber of relationships. We can actually more efficient if we will respond quickly, if possible. If we are prevented from immediately replying, we should make it a priority or we easily forget. 

E–veryone. These rules of communication really apply to all of us, no matter who we are, what the relationship is, or what we do. Some of the busiest people I know are nonetheless great communicators. They have no more time, intelligence, or ability. They realize how vital it is to the overall well-being of their relationships. Christians are in the relationship business!