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church church function discipline immorality sin

A Swinging Beaver Church 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale, with his wife Janelle

Dale Pollard

For a small child, having an open space park just outside your neighborhood was a dream come true. My younger brother and I would spend entire summers exploring, building forts, and fishing in that beautiful place. One day, as we were playing in the creek, we found a beaver laying in the middle of the water— it wasn’t moving. Without getting too graphic, we made several plans for this new prize find. We could make a hat out of the skin, or perhaps stuff it and put it in our room. The only problem was, mom would never allow us to drag this fifty pound beaver into the house. Besides this, the house was almost a mile away. In order to preserve our trophy we decided that the safest option would be to string the beaver up by the tail and hoist it up over the branch of a near by tree. That branch sagged under the weight of the beast while water dripped from it’s wet coat and onto the bike trail directly below. Without thinking about the terrible location we had chosen, Carl and I gave a high-five and began the long walk back to the house. We were beaming with pride and excitement because this was our little secret. A few weeks later, we returned to the spot and were outraged to find that someone had cut our swinging beaver down! Looking back, we still laugh as we think about the many bikers and joggers that ran down that path only to be surprised and confused by this animal carcass hanging over the path.

The church is a wonderful place to be, especially when you find yourself a member of a healthy congregation. When the church is functioning in accordance with scripture, the impact She can make is endless. One aspect of keeping God’s family healthy on the inside is keeping sin on the outside. Sadly, there are some congregations that have blatantly accepted the sinful lifestyles of individuals. It’s as if there were dead beavers hanging in their midst, but instead of cutting it down they choose to turn a blind eye. The longer it stays, the stinkier it becomes. This is a gruesome, but appropriate description of sin. Paul spends two letters rebuking the church at Corinth because they had allowed several horrific sins to divide and erode the Body there. They didn’t sever the hanging carcass, and as a result the stench of sin provoked Paul to write some of the harshest words to be penned in the New Testament.

Paul will give them five commands in chapter sixteen that we would do well to apply to our own lives as well. He says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:13-14). With these two short verses you can backpedal through the letter and see how these five imperatives would have saved them from not only a harsh rebuke, but many heartaches that were also consequences of their sins. They were stricken with disease and death in both the physical and spiritual sense. The apostle commands them, through inspiration, to be aware of their surroundings. Be alert. He reminds them to firmly stand on the truth of the gospel. He bluntly tells them to act like men, because they were acting like children. Then he tells them to be strong, but in a different sense. This strength is that inner strength that it takes to conquer temptation and carry on righteously in the midst of evil. These four commands are then to be carried out with love. A sacrificial love for one another means having the willingness to confront sin problems that are damaging the Bride of Christ. Not out of anger, but out love for His church and for the soul of the guilty member. This is the recipe for a healthy congregation through every age. It worked in Corinth, and it works today.

If there’s a beaver hanging in your congregation, the best thing to do is to cut it down! 

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Categories
false teachers immorality legalism

CHURCH INVADERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

During a prayer recently, a brother thanked God that our congregation had not been “invaded.” I thought it was an interesting, thoughtful way to thank God for His protection from physical harm, but it also took my mind in another direction. More often than we’ve faced armed intruders, the Lord’s church has had its share of others who have snuck or pushed their way in and to detrimental results.

Churches Have Been Invaded By Wolves. They are described in stark terms, being “ravenous” (Mat. 7:15) and “savage” (Acts 20:29). They do as Ezekiel described, “tearing the prey” (33:27). The Bible is describing false teachers who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. What’s so alarming is that these are “from among your own selves” (Acts 20:30). These are individuals whose teaching is false by the Bible’s standards, and the fruit of whose teaching causes people to be severed in their relationship to God. Jude describes them as those who can creep in unnoticed, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). God’s remedies to stop such church invaders are godly, qualified shepherds (Acts 20:28-30; cf. John 10:12) and active, thoughtful Bible students who effectively discern spiritual fruit (Jude 3; Mat. 7:15-20). 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Leaven. Paul addresses an issue “within the church” at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:12), which he illustrates by referring to “a little leaven” that “leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). The leavening influence here was unchecked sexual immorality that the church came to accept rather than address. Paul urges Corinth to take action regarding immoralities like those he lists in verses 9 through 11. When a church normalizes and embraces what Scripture condemns, it has been invaded and taken over from God’s will. Churches who adapt views which accommodate the moral decline of their members rather than challenge their members to rise up to The Standard have been invaded. 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Legalists. Jesus targeted the Pharisees more often than any other single group in the gospels. He is most plain in Matthew 23, noting that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (2). While in context Jesus is dealing with matters under the Old Law, what He observes continues to today. How many have put themselves in the seat that rightfully belongs only to God? They exact rules that are too hard for anyone, even themselves, to follow (4), that are borne of improper motives (5-12), that are harder than God’s rules (13), that make disciples of themselves rather than Jesus (15), that major in the minors (23-25), and that create superficial righteousness and inward rottenness (27-28). Such churches are afflicted with those who appear alive, but are spiritually dead. 

Surely we want “to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). There’s only one Lord for the one body (Eph. 4:5). He is head over all things to the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). That is the basis and marching orders for us to prevent any and all “church invaders.” May we keep vigilant to protect the purity of His church (cf. Eph. 6:10-17)! 

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Categories
immorality morality morality truth Uncategorized

“You Can Find Somebody To Tell You What You Want To Hear”

Neal Pollard

Someone wants to be involved in an illicit relationship, defend an unscriptural marriage (or enter into one), engage in some vice or sinful behavior “in moderation” (or otherwise), and they talk to someone who shows them from scripture why it should not be done. Perhaps they ask several people and get the same discouragement. Sometimes, the inquirer is wise enough to let that guide them away from wrongdoing. Other times, they persist in looking for someone to tell them what they want to hear. Without exception, such a searcher will eventually—and probably sooner than later—find someone to validate and endorse their desire.

Solomon wrote, “The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Prov. 12:5). His father kicked off the songbook of Israel by saying, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” (Psa. 1:1a). Job speaks of how he shunned “the counsel of the wicked” (Job 21:16; 22:18). Wicked Ahaziah was rejected by God, in part, “for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly” (2 Chr. 22:3).  This characteristic of human nature, whether giving or taking wicked counsel, is timeless. But, seeking counsel from the proper sources is encouraged by Scripture (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). How can we make sure that we are hearing what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear?

  • We must realize our personal accountability (2 Cor. 5:10). No matter what anyone else tells us, we’ll stand individually in the Judgment. Christ’s word, as Judge, is the only one that ultimately matters. What has He said?
  • We must pray for wisdom and discernment (Col. 1:9). Are we ignoring a pricked conscience, clear teaching, or red flags? Is self in control, or is the Savior’s will?
  • We must grow in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18).  Have we studied this out yet? Are we convinced beyond a doubt? What does the Lord say?
  • We must be honest with ourselves (Psa. 15:2). We cannot deal fairly in any situation if we’re deceiving ourselves. Lying to ourselves does not change God’s truth. It simply hurts us.
  • We must train our hearts to desire what is good (cf. 2 Pet. 2:14). This can be excruciatingly hard! Proverbs 21:10 says, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” But listen to a cleansed heart: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6).
  • We must put emphasis on the eternal rather than the temporary (2 Cor. 4:16ff). Is what we wish to pursue destructive to heavenly objectives? Are we risking an eternity in heaven for a few years of fleeting pleasure on earth? Nothing is worth sacrificing salvation!
  • We must weigh the advice of our counselors on the scales of truth (Prov. 18:17). The Berean Christians fact-checked an inspired apostle (Acts 17:6). We owe it to ourselves to compare what our advisers tell us—however much we love and respect them—with what God’s Word says. Many times they will align. If they do not, we must choose God’s Word every time!

Beware! At times, what we want to hear is right and good. Many times, it is not. As we lean on others, let us lean most heavily on “the rock” (Mat. 7:24)!

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Categories
authority immorality Satan standards Uncategorized

The Rasputin Rule

Neal Pollard

Very little good can be said of Gregory Rasputin. Robert Goldston, in The Russian Revolution, writes that he “was, like his father before him, essentially a rowdy peasant. He soon developed a reputation in his hometown as a horse thief, drunkard, seducer of young girls, and general good for nothing. He had no education and remained largely illiterate all his life. His one apparent attribute was great physical strength. He was a coarse-featured man with a heavy black beard and strangely piercing eye” (82). Because times in Russia circa 1905 were desperate and grim, a rascal like Rasputin could rise. He went to Saint Petersburg, weaseled his way up the ranks of nobility, and eventually rose to become the most intimate advisor of Czar Nicolas II and especially the superstitious Czarina Alix. Many historians believe that, in the fateful, final years of the Romanov dynasty, Rasputin was the unofficial, yet undisputed, ruler of Russia.

He was grossly immoral and unscrupulous. At his words, jobs and even lives were spared or taken. Though he had abandoned his wife and children, Rasputin made his way as a self-professed prophet and “holy beggar.” The Czarina, in all her correspondence, simply called Rasputin “the Friend.” The royal family implicitly trusted Rasputin. Rasputin, in turn, urged the royal family to rule by absolute despotism. Many thought Rasputin to possess powers of hypnotism and the ability to do magic. Giving him the control of hundreds of millions of peoples’ lives, the Czar contributed to his own murder and that of the entire royal family in the revolution of 1917. For Rasputin’s part, he was murdered in 1914 by a small group of conspiring nobles who lured him to one of their houses and shot him repeatedly after poisoned food and wine did not do the trick.

The most amazing part of this story involves the irony of it all. A ne’er-do-well essentially becomes head of the largest country in the world. A grossly immoral man is viewed as a “holy man.” The head of a dynasty that had lasted hundreds of years put all its trust and hope in such a one. What incredible folly!

However, the majority of humanity has done the same thing from time immemorial. The prince of darkness, the king of ne’er-do-well, is their spiritual advisor. As foolish as it is, people stake their eternal destiny on his wholly corrupt guidance. They risk it all, mesmerized by his wiles. Consequently, they are duped into calling “evil good and good evil…who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isa. 5:20-21). Yet, it is not a revolution but The Judgment that will undo them. They stand to lose more than physical life; they will lose their souls (Mat. 10:28). Beware of the pied piper of souls! Be careful who you make your spiritual counselor. It matters!

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Categories
authority immorality morality standards Uncategorized

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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Categories
apostasy Christian living faithfulness immorality responsibility struggle Uncategorized

Ignoring The Symptoms

Neal Pollard

“What is that smell in the kitchen sink?” “Ah, honey, I’ll look at it, uh, soon.” “When?” “Uh…soon.” “It’s been like this for six month now, honey…honey, are you listening to me? Agh! Look, the drain is bubbling…”

“Mr. Smith, when did you first notice the mole discoloring and becoming asymmetrical?” “Well, um, I think it was last fall.” “Why did you wait a year to get this checked out? I’m pretty sure it’s cancer. To be straight with you, Mr. Smith, I don’t know how this will turn out for you.”

“Brother Jones, have you noticed that sister Blue is acting withdrawn?” “Yea, she lost her job last month and her children are grown and gone.” “Brother Jones, I’ve noticed that she’s recently stopped coming on Sunday nights.” “Yea, Brother Jackson, we need to go visit her this week.” “I know. We’ve been saying that…every week.” “Well, we’ll get there.”

May I suggest that none of these three scenarios is likely to turn out pleasantly? Yet, damage and expense to our material things, or even the loss of physical life to a dreaded disease, are not as devastating or frightening as the loss of a soul. The tragedy is that there are normally symptoms that accompany apostasy (i.e., turning away from the Lord). It is not enough to see the symptoms. We must respond in a timely manner.

One symptom is a decrease in faithful attendance. When individuals who would not miss a service choose to do something else, an alarm has been sounded. Something is replacing their dedication and commitment to Christ. When it is odd or noteworthy that someone is missing services, we need to respond with a card, call, or visit. Somehow, let them know they are missed. Do not lay this solely at the doorstep of preachers and elders. These folks need to be inundated with our concern. Run the risk of offending them. Why should they get offended at genuine brotherly love?

Another symptom is a decrease in reliability in doing church work. The tasks they once did and were counted on to do they no longer do with consistency. Maybe they felt unappreciated or overly burdened. Maybe they needed relief or at least a break. Or, maybe spiritual struggles and worldly concerns have overwhelmed them. Whatever explains the cause, respond to the effect. Tell them how important and special they are. Praise their work. Help them. Encourage them.

Yet another symptom is a change in behavior and withdrawal. This is perhaps the most common precursor and symptom in a spiritual struggle. Distancing themselves from the rest of the church family, a loss of enthusiasm for the church, worship, and/or its programs, and a change in personality within the congregation are all telling signs something isn’t right. We are taught that individuals in a marriage are constantly changing. Those same individuals fill our pews and participate in the church’s work. Let us never take each other for granted or ignore this symptom.

Ultimately, it is not the church’s responsibility to stand for an individual in the judgment (2 Cor. 5:10). Yet, we have a mutual responsibility to each other (1 Pet. 3:8). To borrow from the medical analogy above, when one member of the body hurts, we should all respond to help him or her (1 Cor. 12:26). Please do not be blind to the symptoms of those around you. Ask them how you can help. Do not let them spiritually die because of our neglect.

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Categories
fornication homosexuality immorality Judgment morality same sex marriage

Should We Let The Devil Make The Rules Of Engagement?

Neal Pollard

Thanks to the hospitality of my good friend, Jason Jackson, I had the opportunity to visit beautiful AT&T Park in San Francisco, witnessing a rarity (a Rockies win) against his beloved Giants.  It was LGBT Night at the old ballpark, an annual sponsorship of “SF Pride.” It was also the day of the historic Supreme Court decision mandating the recognition of same-sex marriage in all 50 states. The crowd was enthusiastic about that event in Washington, D.C., cheering when it was proclaimed over the P.A.  The videoboard featured gay and lesbian couples for its “kiss cam.”  While San Francisco is renowned for its “sexual progressiveness,” the city of Denver has earned a reputation for similar liberality of thought regarding homosexuality. In a growing number of places in our nation and especially among those under a certain age, there is welcoming, sanctioning language for homosexuality and vehement intolerance for the least word of condemnation of the behavior as sinfulness.  Even among those professing to be Christians, there is a changing posture in how or if it is dealt with.  Understanding that no sin is worse than any other, that it is not right to display an ungodly attitude in addressing any sin, and that there should not be an inordinate amount of time, attention, and energy given to any sin to the exclusion of the other, I wonder if even some of our Christian brothers and sisters have become unwitting pawns of the prince of this world regarding this matter.  The devil is at war against the Word and will of God, and he is at war against anyone loyal to such (Rom. 13:12; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; Eph. 6:10ff; etc.).  He wants his cause, the ultimate end of which is the spiritual destruction of all men, to succeed, and he wants the cause of Christ to be overthrown.  We know that his mission will ultimately fail, with there being those who are welcomed by our Lord to heaven (1 Cor. 15:24; Mat. 25:34-39). Yet, most will follow him to everlasting punishment and destruction (Mat. 25:41-46).  He has the bulk of the resources and influence of this world, as he almost always has had in every generation. He has powerfully allies and mouthpieces from Washington to Hollywood and most media and education outlets in between.

  • Who is behind the idea that we are not loving the sinner when we speak of homosexuality as sin?
  • Who would have us believe that we are mean-spirited or unrighteous if we use terms like “unnatural” (Rom. 1:26), “exceedingly grave sin” (Gen. 18:20), “ungodly” (2 Pet. 2:6), “gross immorality” and “going after strange flesh” (Jude 7) to describe homosexual behavior?
  • Who would sell us on the idea that loving the homosexual means keeping quiet about their practice of it, failing to warn them to repent (Ezek. 33:8)?
  • Who would seek to equate a behavioral choice (1 Cor. 6:9) with one’s race or skin color (Acts 17:26; Acts 10:34-35)?

What happened in our nation’s highest court last Friday may have been necessary to shake the church out of its general lethargy and indifference regarding evangelism.  What happened there will ultimately be overruled in the highest court there is (Mat. 25:31ff).  What happened there should not become our obsession, but neither are we wrong to take note of how this is a significant societal erosion.  Jesus implies how intolerable it would be for Sodom and Gomorrah at the Judgment (Mat. 10:15). The Lord overthrew them in “in His anger and in His wrath” (Deut. 29:23). Homosexuality is not the only sin there is nor is it the chief sin, but may we not be intimidated away from calling it what it is—“sin.”