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false teaching gospel grace salvation Uncategorized

These Two Just Don’t Mix

THURSDAY’S COLUMN: “CAPTAIN’S BLOG”

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Carl Pollard

Some things just don’t mix. Milk and orange juice, Auburn and Alabama fans, Coca Cola and Mentos. There is one particular mix that can sometimes be fatal. Blood pressure medicine can be a great thing, but when mixed with Advil/Ibuprofen it can harm your body and even give you a brain hemorrhage.  If you mix two common household items, rubbing alcohol and bleach, you can create chloroform. 

It’s safe to say that some things in life just don’t mix. Twenty to thirty years after the ascension of Jesus, Paul wrote to a group of Christians in Galatia warning them of the dangers of mixing two teachings. In Galatians 1:6, Paul says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.” He goes on to say in verse 7, “not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Paul is writing to the Galatians to answer a simple question: “What is required for a person to be saved?” Forget circumcision (Acts 15:1), forget additional teachings, what does GOD say? His answer can be summed up as this: “We need nothing other than what is found in scripture to walk in the Light.” 

Paul addresses the problem in verse six, and he uses the word “amazed” (“thaumazo”) (cf. Acts 4:13; Mark 5:20). He was amazed because these Christians should’ve known better than to listen to these false teachers. Paul’s point is that if there is anything added to that which is necessary for the maintaining of your walk in the light, it is not necessary for salvation.

These Christians should’ve known better, but sadly we are sometimes the same way. We know what’s right and wrong, yet still choose poorly. We know how our speech should be as Christians, we know how we should act and how we should think, but more often than not we make the wrong decision. 

The message that these Christians were to accept was that of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus and the correct way to be saved. Any requirement outside of the plan of salvation was to be condemned. If that other requirement is the sinner’s prayer, it must be condemned. If that other requirement is a “new wave of salvation,” as some denominations teach, it is to be condemned. If that other requirement is a tradition not necessary for salvation yet enforced as such, it is to be condemned. We are only compelled to follow what is contained in God’s Word. 

We do this because there is only one source of truth, as Paul goes on to say in Galatians 1:7-9. No one else (not even an angel) has the authority to add to what God has already completed. Scripture is our objective standard, the one source of truth that we can count on no matter what. 

Every year there are new medical breakthroughs that may change how a doctor treats his/her patient. For example, doctors used to bleed their patients because they thought there was such thing as “bleeding out bad blood.” We know this isn’t the case today and that’s because as humans our knowledge is fallible and subject to change. This is not the case for Christians. 

Our methods may change as time goes on, but our message and teachings will never change. Their author is our perfect, unchangeable, all-knowing, infallible God. 

We need nothing other than what is contained in scripture to walk in the light. Paul tells them what is required for salvation. There is only one Gospel that helps to walk in the light. There is only one source that the gospel has come from. We have to decide which gospel we will listen to. Will we let man ruin what God has deemed perfect? Will we let someone else tell us how to be saved? Man, on his own, doesn’t know how to be saved. 

God gave us one gospel through One source, now it is up to us to make the right decision.

 

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attitude heart prophesy prophet salvation Uncategorized

THE HEART OF JONAH

TUESDAY COLUMN: “DALE MAIL”

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Dale Pollard

The book of Jonah is a unique book in the Old Testament. Unlike other prophetic books, God chooses to focus on the prophet himself rather than the message being preached by him. While many lessons can be pulled from this four chapter book, there’s one in particular that we can all benefit from hearing from time to time. That lesson is that in order for true change to occur in our lives there must be a genuine transformation of the heart.

The book begins with God’s call to Jonah to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh and then closes with God’s response to Jonah’s anger at the penitent hearts of the Ninevites. Between these two divine speeches you read about the prophet’s incredible experience in the belly of a great fish. Many artist’s have painted pictures of Jonah desperately trying to keep his head above the waves while a terrifying monster breeches the surface with its mouth wide open preparing to swallow him. While this may be the image that comes to mind, Jonah gives us an interesting detail in his prayer. He recalls how the waters closed over him and he eventually reaches the sea floor where he is helplessly tangled in the weeds. While the murky waters cloud his vision his fate seemed very clear. Jonah admits that he called out to the Lord provoked by his great distress and this mental plea was a desperate attempt to preserve his life. God answers this cry by sending him a slippery savior. Jonah, while known to be a little on the dramatic side, will later recall how it was in the moment when his life was fainting away that he “remembered the Lord.” God saved a blatantly rebellious man who in no way deserved that salvation but He also allowed Jonah to reach great depths and come face to face with his own spiritual reality. Jonah was a long way from God, but not geographically.

Before Jonah became soaked by the stormy seas, he was soaked in a sin problem that had taken root in his heart. God allowed Jonah to physically experience rock bottom so that he could acknowledge some spiritual issues that distanced him from God. While Jonah may have desired to run from God, he came to the conclusion that being away from God was not the relief he thought it would be.

As traumatic as this event was, Jonah seems to emerge from the belly of the fish with lingering spiritual issues. Though he preaches to the city of Nineveh, there is still anger and hatred dominating his heart. The last chapter gives us a glimpse of this as he directs this anger towards the very God that saved him. In order for true change to occur, there must be a genuine change of heart. While low points can help us examine our heart health for a moment, relentless determination to live life differently is the key to success. A hopeful reminder for anyone who may find themselves in the depths of sin, there is no place too dark where God is not able to hear your prayers. 

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baptism salvation Uncategorized

My Recent Sermon On Baptism

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crucifixion redemption salvation Uncategorized

BLACK FRIDAY

Neal Pollard

It was September 24, 1869. The Civll War was barely an excruciating national memory and the nation was rebuilding. That specific day was a Friday, the day a cruel scheme by two Wall Street investors was discovered and led to an implosion of the Stock Market. It was referred to as “Black Friday.” The tie of this term to the Christmas shopping season is also surprising. In the 1950s, the Philadelphia police department used the phrase to describe the mayhem brought by the combination of suburban shoppers, tourists, attendees of the Army-Navy football game, and increased shoplifting in stores. They would have to work extra-long shifts this day after Thanksgiving. It was a derogatory term until relatively recently, when retailers in the late 1980s co-opted the expression to depict the day as the day retailers were trying to take their businesses from the “red” to the “black.” This meant bargains for shoppers, the best day to get out and shop and spend. While the advent of online shopping and retail promotions have created new and additional days of holiday shopping deals, “Black Friday” still symbolizes the happy time of “the most wonderful time of the year” (information from Sarah Pruitt, History Channel). 

For the Christian, black Friday was the day darkness fell over the whole land of Palestine around 30 A.D. (Mat. 27:45). It had to take place to save humanity who were sitting in the darkness of sin (Mat. 4:16) facing the grim prospect of eternal, outer darkness (Mat. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30). It was a horrible day. It was a day of seeming loss, with Jesus’ followers sensing total defeat. Jesus was undergoing six hours of horrific torture before succumbing to death. Satan seemed victorious. But God, according to His eternal, humbling, and essential plan, took that day of darkness and defeat and used it to bring the only profit that ultimately matters. It was actually a day of triumph (Col. 2:15). It became a day of victory for us (1 John 5:4). What turned that day from sorrow to joy was the Sunday that followed that Friday. That Friday death was God’s gift to the whole world, and it profits anyone who responds to it by obedient faith (Rom. 6). 

This Sunday (and every Sunday), we get to celebrate this gift and what it means to us when we take the Lord’s Supper. We think back on those dark events, thank God for what they mean to us now, and look ahead with hope and assurance to what it means for our eternal destiny. It was a day of defeat, but God transformed it into the day of victory! 

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baptism salvation Uncategorized

“WHAT PREVENTS ME FROM BEING BAPTIZED?”

Neal Pollard

Philip encounters a man returning from worshipping God in Jerusalem. The man, an Ethiopian eunuch, was reading from the scroll of Isaiah.  Philip engages him in conversation, asking the African man if he understood what he was reading.  This very important man was humble enough to ask for help, and Philip climbed into the chariot and delved into the text, Isaiah 53 as we would recognize it today, and taught him about Jesus.  This led the Ethiopian to ask, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36, NASU).  He is saying that he understood who Jesus is, understood his need, and was now at a place where there was sufficient water for him to be baptized in order to have his sins forgiven.  Perhaps Philip pointed out the fact that Jesus died, was buried, and rose again and through baptism we reenact those very aspects (cf. Rom. 6:1-6). Perhaps Philip discussed the fact that a baptism “washes away sins” for believers in Christ who act in obedient faith (cf. Acts 22:16).  Whatever Philip preached about Jesus, it led the eunuch to correctly deduce his need to be baptized.

There are a good number of people who are currently or were formerly in a Bible study with someone, learned their need to be baptized into Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27), but have yet to do so.  There are an untold number of young people who are of accountable age who as of yet have not been baptized.  How many spouses of Christians know they need to do it, but have not been baptized?  Each individual mentioned in the groups above, as well as all others, are of infinite value to God (cf. Matt. 16:26).  No doubt, God would desire anyone who has yet to come to the knowledge of the truth to do so and be saved (1 Tim. 2:4).  Would he not want us all to ask, “What prevents me from being baptized?”

Certainly, one might give many answers to this question.  Let us examine some answers commonly given to this question.

“I’m Not Ready.”

Some individuals are not ready.  There are some too young to truly know right from wrong.  There are some who have not yet been sufficiently taught.  However, there are some who are not ready for the commitment, the sacrifice, and the submission needed to make Jesus Lord. There will never be a better sacrifice than Jesus.  One will never have more time left to give to the Lord than right now. God cannot possibly extend more love or grace. If one is not ready, he or she should ask, “What will ready me?”

“I’m Afraid.”

Fear is understandable.  Jesus apparently experienced it (cf. Heb. 5:7; Lk. 22:42). Paul experienced fear (Col. 4:4).  Peter certainly grappled with fear (cf. Matt. 26:69-74; 1 Pet. 3:14-15).  John exhorted the Christians in his audience not to succumb to fear, as it is a barrier to salvation (Rev. 21:8).  

One might fear the change that follows becoming a Christian.  One might fear failure in their Christian walk.  One might fear the reaction and even the rejection of others.  Jesus once taught, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28).  One must evaluate those fears and ask if any of them is worth risking the fearful prospect of standing before the Lord without His blood covering their sins.
“I’m Not Sure.”

Peter unquestionably says, “Make certain about His calling and choosing you” (2 Pet. 1:10).  However, he is not giving people an excuse to put off obeying Christ.  Remember, he is speaking to those already purified from their former sins (1:9)–those who had already been baptized. There is a need to reason through scripture (cf. Isa. 1:18). Paul reasoned with individuals about Christ on many occasions (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 24:25).  The fact is that the biblical claims about who Jesus is and how one receives the benefits of His grace are most reasonable. Rationalization, hard-heartedness, and self-will may be the seeds that grow into weeds of doubt, but there is no need to doubt or allow doubt to prevent one from submitting to Christ.

“I Don’t Believe.”

One may or may not say those specific words.  Yet, when one sees the truth of scripture, knows the personal accountability demanded, and does nothing about it, that one essentially does not believe.  At least, faith is insufficient to properly respond to God’s amazing grace. This is a hard truth to confront in ourselves.  I see it.  I know it.  But, I will not act upon it.  The Hebrews writer says the Israelites could not enter the promised land because of unbelief (Heb. 3:19), and he warns us against imitating them (Heb. 3:12ff).  Even the demons believe and tremble, though it does them no good (cf. Jas. 2:19).  We must believe and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16).

Perhaps you are one who could ask yourself, “What prevents me from being baptized?”  Cast a long mental gaze at the cross of Calvary and comprehend the love and sacrifice evidenced there.  Such was for you (cf. Gal. 2:20).  God’s love for you is personal. He wants nothing more than for you to live with Him eternally, and He has told you what is involved in that (cf. Acts 2:38).  What prevents you from being baptized?

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languages nation nationalities salvation Uncategorized

“Dia dhuit. Hoi. Shalom. Konnichiwa. Marhaba. Namaskar. Zdravo. Ahoj…”

“Hello!”

There are many ways to say it, but all of them are meant to be warm and welcoming. While I have been privileged to visit 22 countries around the world, so many of you have visited me from all over the globe. In the last month, you have “stopped in” from the following countries (in addition to the United States):

Algeria                       India                    Poland
Australia                    Indonesia           Portugal
Austria                       Ireland                Qatar
Bahamas                    Italy                     Romania
Belgium                     Jamaica               Russia
Brunei                        Japan                  Saudia Arabia
Burundi                     Kenya                  Sierra Leone
Cambodia                  Kuwait                Singapore
Cameroon                  Latvia                 Somalia
Canada                       Lebanon            South Africa
Cayman Islands        Lesotho              South Korea
China                           Liberia               Spain
Colombia                    Madagascar       Sri Lanka
Croatia                        Malawi                Sudan
Dominican Republic   Mexico              Sweden
Egypt                           Moldova              Tanzania
Fiji                               Morocco               Thailand
Finland                       Myanmar             Trinidad & Tobago
France                         Namibia               Turkey
Germany                     Nepal                    Uganda
Ghana                          Netherlands        Ukraine
Greece                          New Zealand      United Arab Emirates
Grenada                       Nigeria                 United Kingdom
Guyana                         Pakistan               Vanuatu
Hong Kong                   Peru                      Vietnam
Hungary                       Philippines           Zambia
Zimbabwe

I do not know how many languages or religions you represent, but I am thrilled you are interested enough to read this blog. It is dedicated to New Testament Christianity, built upon the belief that the Bible is the Word of God and communicates His complete will for all people everywhere. If you have any Bible questions and I can be of service, please do not hesitate to reply to the blog. I will do my best to answer it at quickly as possible. All of us are looking for answers to life’s biggest question. I am convinced the Bible has the answer to any question that ultimately matters. And, please, come back to the blog any time! 

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hope redemption salvation Uncategorized

Adopting Orphans

Neal Pollard

It was nearly twenty years ago that I walked with Keith Kasarjian through an orphanage in eastern Ukraine. I cannot remember how many children were there, but there were many. My first impression was their appearance–unwashed and tattered clothes, dirty bodies, and many had mussed or shaved heads. But my overwhelming impression was regarding their behavior. They clung to us, wanting our attention. They couldn’t speak much, if any, English, and our Russian was sparse. There was a hunger in their eyes, not for food but for attention and affection. While we were not there for very long, the memory of that evening is as fresh today as it has ever been. They had no family, few possessions, and terribly uncertain futures. Legally, culturally, and financially, adopting dozens of foreign children was virtually impossible. Not a few tears were shed when we said goodbye and as we looked back at that evening.

An orphan “is someone whose parents have died, are unknown, or have permanently abandoned them” (Merriam Webster online; Concise Oxford Dict.). While Scripture mentions physical orphans 36 times, including twice in the New Testament, the concept of spiritual adoption is an important way the New Testament describes what God does through Christ to make us part of His family. Particularly, Romans 8-9, Galatians 4-5, and Ephesians 1 describe this process.

Consider how we appear to God. Even our righteous deeds are like filthy garments (Isa. 64:6). He even figuratively described His Old Testament people as like castoff children abandoned and helpless whom He bathed, clothed, and took care of (Ezek. 16:1ff). But, that figure could certainly be applied to us today. Scripture depicts sin as making us stained (2 Pet. 2:13), spotted (Eph. 5:27; 1 Pet. 1:19), and unclean (Rev. 21:27). Yet, God saw us and loved us (Rom. 5:6-8). He wanted us to be part of His family (Eph. 2:19).

The difference between God and us is that He is able to take all of us. He wants to, and He has the resources and power to make it a reality. He feels perfect pity for us who are orphaned by sin, and He acts on that compassion by inviting us into His family. If we accept His offer, He makes it happen. That being the case, why would we ever reject what only He can give? We can go from being the lowliest reject to being a child of God!  Truly, it doesn’t seem like much of a dilemma. If we see ourselves, spiritually, as we are, we will anxiously accept what only He can give us.

Ukraine 2003

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New Year resolutions resolve salvation Uncategorized

Every Day Is “New” With God

Neal Pollard

  • We sing a new song (Ps. 40:3; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9).
  • We gain new strength (Isa. 40:31).
  • We have a new name (Isa. 62:2; Rev. 2:17).
  • We have a new covenant (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8-9). 
  • We have God’s compassions which are new every morning (Lam. 3:23). 
  • We have a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek. 36:26).
  • We observe a new commandment with each other (John 13:34).
  • We walk a new life (Rom. 6:4). 
  • We are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). 
  • We are part of that new man, united with all children of God (Eph. 2:15).
  • We have put on the new self (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). 
  • We have been given a new and living way (Heb. 10:20).
  • We are looking for new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13).
  • We anticipate the day when Christ makes all things new (Rev. 21:5).

Even though these promises were made thousands of years ago,  they are as fresh and bright today as they have ever been. Some help us overcome the guilt of our past. Others give us strength for the present. All of them give us hope for the future. We don’t need “new truth,” but so many of the truths of Scripture deserve our renewed dedication and attention. As a New Year descends, try and put your arms around all the daily renewal our great God makes available to us on January 1st and every other day of the year! 

” Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16). 

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freedom hope Jesus Jesus Christ salvation Uncategorized

The Greatest Longing Of The Soul

Neal Pollard

Quick. Name the top three accomplishments of Grover Cleveland’s presidency. I’ll wait. 

Nothing? Don’t feel dense or unpatriotic. He’s not in most historians’ top 10 (25?) of American presidents. But on yesterday’s date, 132 years ago, he was at the helm and dedicated the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  This, if you don’t recall, was the proposed gift of French historian Edouard de Laboulaye in honor of America’s alliance with France during the Revolutionary War, sculpted by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, designed by Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel), completed in France in 1884, and delivered to America the next year with the last rivet fitted on October 28, 1886 (via Instagram). The pedestal of the statue contains a sonnet by poet Emma Lazarus, well-known to most of us, that reads, 

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door” (ibid.).

With all the debate about immigration–a Reuters story revealed that immigration tops the economy and healthcare as the top issue for voters (Read here)–there is no denying why so many people around the world want to come to the United States. We have long been regarded as the haven for poor masses yearning to breathe free and wanting a home inside “the golden door.” Many have come and achieved incredible success in our country. Many more than that have come to find that immigrating here did not solve their problems or make their dreams come true.

There is a greater longing of the soul, a desire for something even more than prosperity.  Jesus teaches us that material things won’t last (Mat. 6:19-20). Peter tells us what comes of such ultimately (2 Pet. 3:10). 

There is a greater longing of the soul than even freedoms afforded by nations and governments. Many will abuse those freedoms through immoral choices.  Proverbs 14:34 strongly applies.

The most noble, highest longing of a soul is for the freedom only Christ can provide. To be free from the slavery of sin (John 8:31-36), from guilt of sin (Psa. 51:1-14), and from the power of sin (Heb. 2:14) is man’s wisest quest. A person with an abundance of money, liberty, and other earthly advantages may still be buried by the influence of sin. To know there’s a solution right now–who wouldn’t want that?

Don’t forget what Jesus tells people everywhere: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mat. 11:28). 

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baptism salvation truth Uncategorized

Truth Is Truth, No Matter WHO Disagrees With It

Neal Pollard

Today, one of the most famous preachers of modern times died just short of his 100th birthday. Not only did he achieve longevity, his name was almost synonymous with American religion in the 20th Century. He reached hundreds of millions of people through live crusades, radio, and television. He was regularly listed as one of the “Ten Most Admired Men in the World.” His website claimed that he preached to more people in live audiences than anyone else in history (info via FoxNews.com).  His influence on society is unmistakeable.

However, this much loved and now much lamented man used the weight of his name and influence to oppose something which Scripture seems very clearly to teach. In the answer section of his website, he addresses the question, “Is baptism necessary for salvation?” While answering that he believed it to be important and that he had done it himself, he also said, “If baptism were a requirement for salvation, we would certainly say that.” His answer makes clear that one becomes a saved convert before baptism, the thief on the cross being used as proof of that claim. Many of those who left comments under his answer shows how deeply influential and popular his teaching on this was.

I believe in the vitality of the saying, “It’s never a matter of ‘who’s right,’ but ‘what’s right.’” Something is never right because I say it, some other preacher, or even the most famous preacher of the 20th Century says it. Something is right because Jesus and His apostles and prophets said it. Here is what they said:

  • “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Jesus)
  • “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins” (Peter)
  • “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Ananias)
  • “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Paul)
  • “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Paul)
  • “ Corresponding to that (Noah and family brought safely through the water, 20, NP), baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience—through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (Peter)

I feel the loss of this renowned preacher is sad and tragic.  I appreciate his vast influence and the way he tried to use that for good in so many regards. Yet, if the Bereans found it necessary to compare the great apostle Paul’s preaching and teaching with Scripture, any of us who preach and teach today should want people to do the same. That’s the only way we will be able to determine what’s right!

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