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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.

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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! 

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But Why Should I?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

You know what I hate? Running out of paper towels. You spill a drink all over the floor and you run to grab some but there’s nothing but a roll on the dispenser.

You know, God can only use you if you’re wrapped in Him. Without God life has no point. We hear things like “let God use you!” Or “Serve God!” Or “Love God!” But why should you? That sounds like a terrible question to ask, but let’s think about this. Why should you serve God? Let’s take a minute to look at who God really is, and why we should love Him so much.

First of all, God is not cruel. God has had you in mind since the beginning (Ephesians 2:10).

God can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary (2 Cor. 5:17). 

God can give you spiritual sight so you can make sense of this world. 

God can make things a little easier. He can help you lose your load of sin. He can help you worry and stress less.

God can give you family.

God can offer you the best retirement plan. If this sounds good to you, God’s looking for someone to give that to— a special kind of person. 

He’s looking for the seeking 

He’s looking for the struggling 

He’s looking for the simple. 

He’s looking for the sinner.

He’s looking for the sincere. 

The more we come to know God, the more we will fall in love with who He is. No matter what your spiritual state may be, pursue His presence and your life will be more blessed because of it. 

“For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.“

– Psalm 100:5

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Uncategorized

Getting Our Kids Back In School

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The American Academy of Pediatrics, who most would not consider a politically-driven entity, shared their findings and concerns about children not being able to return to school this fall. Reasons they advocate for a return to the classroom include risk of social isolation, abuse, untreated mental health disorders, food insecurity, less physical activity, racial and social inequalities, and developing diseases. Then, there’s the academic reasons. There’s a great risk right now that they might catch and/or transmit Covid-19, but the AAP, along with so many others, is suggesting weighing that risk against these others (Dr. Sabina Bera, 7/10/20, “Why Pediatricians Are Pushing For Kids To Back To School In The Fall,” ABC News).  To do so, there would need to be changes to protect everyone involved–physical distancing, hand washing, face covering, altering how class changing is done, temperature checking, testing, and enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, etc. (healthychildren.org).  But our children’s future, their development, and their needs, make the unavoidable risks necessary.

The greatest need every child (and adult) has is spiritual. Within each child is a never-dying, eternal soul. They need to learn about and know about God’s Word. There is such benefit to getting back to sitting in a Bible classroom, with their friends, and having their faith built in God and Jesus, learning about the importance of the church, and being shown how to live lives that will please God. The case could be made that this must be prioritized over anything else (Mat. 6:33). While the same virus-related precautions must be observed, consider these reasons why we should give thought to getting our kids back in Bible school as soon as we can.

          • Children need teaching that is at their specific level. While Paul was making another point with this observation, children speak, think, and reason differently than adults (1 Cor. 13:11). They need more basic and simplified teaching about many biblical subjects, and the Bible school supplies this need.
          • Children need to form the good habit of being in the Bible classroom. There are trying moments with our little ones under the best of circumstances. They can be more trying when children have been out of the habit of sitting in class. Teachers and parents will probably need to remember that once classes resume.
          • Children need the stimulation that comes from each other’s presence and their teacher’s presence. While this happens at a different level for children, they are stimulated to love and good deeds through their assembling for classes (Heb. 10:24-25). Just watch how excited these little students often are at seeing each other. 
          • Children need their enthusiasm for the Bible stoked. Children’s classes are a formidable foundation for future faith. Our job in the church and in the home is to do whatever we can to increase their zeal for spiritual things. Perhaps no one outdoes a child for honestly and enthusiastically exclaiming, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD'” (Psa. 122:1). 

We cannot afford to be dismissive or reckless. We must be vigilant in physical precautions. Balanced with this, though, we must understand how essential the spiritual education of our children is! The home has the primary role in this, pandemic or not. But, the church is a frontline partner. Let’s pray that we will do all we can, when we can, to get back to serving in this role! They have no greater need!

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Photo credit: Holly Dillingham

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providence Uncategorized

Trail Magic

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

My dad has discovered YouTube. He had been using the service to watch streaming worship services during the height of the coronavirus lockdown; he has since noted its potential entertainment value. One of his favorite channels is one that plays classic country music from the 1950s and 1960s. Recently, however, he has been watching the videos of hikers along the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails. I use to enjoy hiking in my healthier days, so I have sat down to watch more than one of these videos with him. I have never even contemplated doing a thru-hike of one of the previously mentioned 1,000 mile plus trails, but have admired those who have completed them. As I watched one video of a hiker who undertook the Appalachian Trail to conquer his depression, I heard him use an unfamiliar term: “trail magic.” In another video, a young woman from Opelika, Alabama, used the words in regards to her trek along the Pacific Crest Trail. Curiosity compelled me to look that phrase up. The phenomenon originated on the Appalachian Trail but has since popped up along the other lengthy trails as well.

 The Appalachian Trail Conservancy defines trail magic as follows:

“1) Finding what you need most when you least expect it. 2) Experiencing something rare, extraordinary, or inspiring in nature. 3) Encountering unexpected acts of generosity, that restore one’s faith in humanity.” 1

As the videos demonstrated, trail magic presented itself in a cooler of cold drinks left at a taxing point in the trail. Or maybe a veteran thru-hiker set up a tent at a spot along the pathway to feed the hikers who came through. It could also be a person volunteering to provide a wearied hiker a ride to his or her nightly lodging when the trail came close to a town offering a hostel or hotel serving hikers. Thru-hikers have no reason to expect that any of these things will happen to them as they make their journey even though it happens enough to warrant a name (i.e., trail magic). That is why it is so appreciated.

 When I read that, my mind immediately associated aspects of this phenomenon to what those of us who are Christians call “providence.” How often have we found something unexpected in our life, typically at the most opportune time, that screams “God” to us? In other words, a sudden something that points to God’s hand at work in our lives. No, providence is not a miracle, since it does not circumvent the laws of nature to occur. It works within the established framework around us, making it even more amazing since it can require God’s forethought rather than just a momentary expression of His unlimited power. Yet, it is as appreciated by us as any miracle would be since it satisfies our momentary need, whether remission from cancer or unexpected inflow of funds when presented with a financial crisis.

 This characteristic of God has earned Him a unique name first applied by father Abraham, Jehovah-Jireh. Do you recall the reason Abraham called God by that name? God had asked him to offer his only son as a sacrifice. This son was the promised one for whom he had long waited. Yet, Abraham complied. When his son, Isaac, noticing a missing sacrifice, asked his father about it, he replied, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (Genesis 22.8 NASB). After nearly sacrificing his son, an angel stopped Abraham, and Abraham noted a ram with its head stuck in a nearby thicket. Abraham offered the ram as a sacrifice in place of his son and called the location “Jehovah-Jireh,” meaning “The Lord will provide.”

 Our path to Heaven is strait and narrow (Matthew 7.13-14). It is, therefore, most welcome that as we make our way through this life that we encounter this celestial trail magic. Let us never fail to thank our God since He is also Jehovah-Jireh.

 REFERENCES

1 Bruffey, Daniel. “Trail Magic.” Appalachian Trail Conservancy, The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, appalachiantrail.org/explore/hike-the-a-t/thru-hiking/trail-magic/.

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Categories
existence of God God God (nature) omnipresence providence Uncategorized

Is God Really Everywhere at Once?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

One of the most mind boggling topics we can study is the omnipresence of God. When one contemplates the power of God, it is easy to see why so many are intimidated by this subject. Most who believe in God believe in His ability to be in every location on earth at one time, and by recognizing God as the creator, we are automatically ascribing Him as the Author of time.
God is the creator of time, and as humans we are stuck in a timeline. We see everything through the eyes of time. The date we were born, the day we got married, and what time our doctors appointment is next week. God isn’t bound to time the way we are.
2 Peter 3:8 says, “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” God does not experience time the same way we do. What seems like forever to us is just a second to God, and what seems like a moment to us is forever to God. God has the power to move through His creation unrestricted. The laws of the universe do not apply to Him because He is not a part of the universe in the same sense that you and I are. God is spirit, not matter or physical substance to be measured and weighed. He is The Almighty God and is not bound to His creation of time.
Psalm 33:13-14 reads, “The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth.” If God sees all the inhabitants of the earth, He is automatically breaking the laws of time and space. For example, I am writing this blog at 6:24 PM. At this very moment it is 2:24 AM in Dar es Salaam. It is 6:24 AM in Bangkok. It is 11:24 AM in New Zealand. God sees those who are awake on half the planet, and those who are asleep on the other half. God is naturally present in every aspect of the natural order of things, in every manner, time, and place.
God is omnipresent, and it is very important for us to understand this. A God with this much power and holiness, that is everywhere on earth at any given moment, takes the time to listen to us. A God who created everything with His Words, sees all the inhabitants of the earth, and has the power and might to be everywhere on this earth at one time is the God who looked at me and you and saw that we needed a Savior.
What an incredible God we serve!
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Categories
children God love of God Uncategorized

​GOD ONLY HAS CHILDREN

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Have you ever noticed that God only references His people as “children”? He never calls any of us His “grandchildren” or “great-grandchildren.” The reason God does not is that it is up to each new generation to find the Law of the Lord. I fear some of the problems creeping into churches stem from the fact there are those with an inherited faith from a parent seeking to be a “grandchild” of God. God sent His Son to redeem us and make us His adopted children (Galatians 4.4-5). It is as the adopted child God wants us to live. And how sad is it for people to deny themselves of that benefit? The adoption as children gives us the boldness to call upon Him as our Father (Romans 8.15). One day this adoption will enable the redemption when we enter eternity (Romans 8.23).
It is true it is easier to do as our parents and grandparents did religiously. In other words, it is easier to be a parrot mimicking everything around you religiously. If that is your choice, however, allow me to suggest you do not have the boldness to call upon God as your Father. Frankly, you may not even feel close to Him at all. In such a state, religion often becomes a cold formality in which one goes through his checklist seeking to do those things he feels will please God. If attempting to be a grandchild of God, then do not expect to receive the promises reserved solely for God’s heirs, His children.
Yes, God only has children. Are you one of His children? If you are, how faithful have you been to Him? Do not be as the prodigal son. Remain steadfast in your Father’s house and wait for the eternal redemption promised to God’s children.
Categories
assemblies commitment faithfulness Uncategorized worship

AREN’T WE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

  • I’ve never heard the avid fisherman say, “Do I have to go back to the lake?”
  • I’ve never heard the shopaholic say, “How often do I have to go to the store?”
  • I’ve never heard the committed sports fan say, “How many games do I have to watch?”
  • I’ve never heard the foodie say, “How often do I have to try a new restaurant or dish?”
  • I’ve never heard the head-over-heels-in-love say, “How many times do I have to see him/her each week?”
  • I’ve never heard the devoted mom say, “How often must I hold my baby?”

We’ve lost the battle when our sermons, articles, and classes center around answering the question, “How often must I assemble? How many times a week do I have to come to church? Are Sunday night and Wednesday night mandatory?”

How unnatural for a disciple, a committed follower of Jesus who is in love with Him and who has such a relationship with Him that He is priority number one, to approach the assemblies in such a way! Must? Have to? You see, the question is wrong. The mentality and approach is where the work needs to occur.

When Jesus and His church are my passion, the thought-process becomes “I get to,” “I want to,” and “I will!” Neither parents, grandparents, spouses, elders, preachers, siblings, nor anyone else have to get behind anyone and push the one who has put Jesus at the heart and center of their lives.

Not a legalistic or checklist mindset. Instead, an outgrowth of what’s happening in my life between my God and me. Church “attendance” is but one evidence of this, but it certainly is an evidence of this. Church and religion are not just a slice of the pie of a committed Christian’s life. Christ is the hub in the wheel of their life, and each spoke of the wheel is attached to that hub. The difference could not be more dramatic!

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Categories
evangelism prejudice race racism Uncategorized unity

Of One the Lord Has Made the Race

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 John Moody McCaleb was a missionary in Japan for the better part of his life. He moved to the island nation during the Meiji era, in which Japan was sprinting to catch up to the technology and emulate the political philosophy of the West. The war-weary pacifist, David Lipscomb, strongly influenced McCaleb. (I would dare say that it did not take much to sway him since his father, a Union soldier, was shot and killed by a fellow Union soldier as he was crossing a stream since he did not hear the latter’s order to halt. 1)

 Hence, when Japan became an Imperial state in its early Showa era, McCaleb’s pacifistic ideology put him at odds with his adopted home. He was sent “home” to the United States in October of 1941, just a couple of months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Since his expulsion, McCaleb’s house, which survived the tumultuous world war, has become a museum. A contemporary caretaker of the museum noted that McCaleb never flew an American or Japanese flag in front of his residence, stating “my true nationality is the kingdom of heaven.” 2

 Perhaps, it should not surprise us that the first stanza of a hymn penned by McCaleb reads as follows: “Of one the Lord has made the race, Through one has come the fall; Where sin has gone must go His grace: The gospel is for all.” Yes, this pioneering American missionary of the Restoration Movement wrote one of the most beloved hymns highlighting the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20), The Gospel Is for All.

 I wished to share this to drive home one point. McCaleb failed to see cultural distinctions as “racial” in nature. McCaleb understood as Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17.26-27: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (NASB)” Indeed, we are of one race, the human race.

 When we look for the genesis of our divisions in God’s Word, we read Genesis 11 and the account of the Tower of Babel. Within that chapter, humanity, united, sought to use its solidarity to rebel against God. God couldn’t allow that for, because thus united, He observed, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6 NASB). And so, God divided us by giving us different languages.

 Someone might scoff that vocabulary is not an insurmountable barrier since we learn the tongues of others today. First, it is not as if there were primers to teach one another the new languages existing initially after the Tower of Babel. Second, thus motivated to disperse, they went on to develop cultures independent of one another centered on those communication divisions. They intermarried those of their lingual group who had developed customs different from other lingual groups. It was a positive feedback loop.

 Might I humbly suggest that this remains the source of our societal ills today when it comes to poorly labeled “race relations,” since we are only one race? We have different cultures and customs. Language is not an insurmountable obstacle because we know the syllabaries and alphabets of those speaking different languages from ourselves. With this knowledge, we take the Gospel to every creature.

 But if we want to know what causes a man to kneel on the neck of a subdued man because he has more melanin in his skin, it is not a “racial problem.” It is a sin problem. And even though we all like to think that those resembling ourselves are free of such biases, it is something against which we all must carefully guard our hearts, whether we possess little or much melanin.

 Each of us is created in the image of God and must seek to treat one another as we desire to be treated (Matthew 7.12). Please keep this in mind whenever you see the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” type of headlines the devil likes to employ to impede the progress of the Gospel in this world. He seeks to do so by convincing men that the essential things are the least important, but that the amount of melanin in one’s skin is of greater import.

REFERENCES

1 Walker, Wayne. “‘The Gospel Is For All.’” Hymnstudiesblog, WordPress.com, 6 Nov. 2008, hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/quotthe-gospel-is-for-allquot/.

2 Ikuma, Koji. “The Old Missionary Museum of Zoshigaya, a Story of One of the Famous Christian Missionaries in Japan.” Unfamiliar Japan Tours, Unfamiliar Japan Tours.com, 19 Aug. 2016, uj-tours.com/missionary-house/.

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