“Do This In Remembrance”

“Do This In Remembrance”

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

The Lord’s Supper comes once a week. Often I find myself wishing that we could spend more time dwelling on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. But Sunday morning isn’t the only time that we can think about our Savior. In fact, if we spend more time throughout the week thinking about it, the time during the Lord’s Supper can mean so much more. 

In this article I want to encourage each Christian to start thinking about Christ and His sacrifice before Sunday comes this week. You’d be amazed at the difference it makes. These few verses and hymns are a beautiful reminder of what Christ went through on our behalf. Our sins are washed away through the powerful blood given by God’s Son!

Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces. he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” 

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Isaiah 53:4, “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Isaiah 53:5, “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That you, my God, would die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That you, my God, would die for me?

I pray that this weekend we all see the importance of having the right mindset going into worship on Sunday. I pray that as a church we recognize the unity and fellowship we have in Christ. May we never take the cross for granted! 

Moral Protection And Identification (1 John: Part 7)

Moral Protection And Identification (1 John: Part 7)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Moral Protection, Identification

Anyone who continuously, consciously sins is anti-law. Sin itself is anti-law. We’ve known that Jesus was revealed to everyoneso that he could lift away sin, and sin doesn’t exist for you when you’re partners with him. Everyone who sticks with him avoids sin – if you continuously sin, it means you’ve never seen or known him. 

Children, don’t let anyone fool you. If you continually2 practice moral excellence, you’re as pure as he is. If you continuously practice sin, you’re an ally of satan. He’s been a sinner since the very beginning. 

God’s son was sent here1 for a specific reason: to destroy satan’s work. Anyone who joins God’s family for real is able to avoid sin. How? His very essence lives in you, so you’re unable to commit sin because you came from God. 

This is how you can tell the difference between God’s family and satan’s family: if they aren’t practicing moral goodness, they aren’t God’s. If they don’t selflessly love their Christian family, they aren’t God’s. 

 1 ἐφανερώθη means, “to reveal, make visible, … expose publicly … with focus on sensory aspect rather than cognitive” (BDAG φανεροω). The idea seems to be that, unlike his other missions – which were invisible to the human eye (cf II Kgs 6.17ff, 19.35; I Chron 21.14f) – Jesus’s presence was visible to everyone. Since the word is aorist passive, “was sent,” and, “was revealed,” seemed appropriate. 

 2 Use of continuously and continually is not accidental. No one can continuously practice righteousness (cf I Jn 1.8). John posits sin as something we all have, but which is not held against us. Only when we sin so much that it defines our existence do we find ourselves in darkness. While “continuously” is not literally correct, it highlights the intention of the author more effectively. One who sins without ever coming up for air is different from one who struggles with sin (cf I Jn 1.7f; Rom 7.14-25). 

 GOD’S WAY TO GET UP AND GO 

 GOD’S WAY TO GET UP AND GO 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

It’s hard to find a better Scripture to serve as a goal or vision statement than Hebrews 10.24. 

Let’s consider how to provoke one another towards love and good deeds.” 

First, notice the verse begins with the key to the beginning of biblical love and good deeds. In a group setting, love and good deeds should be considered together. One person’s dreams and schemes will lack the crucial insight of others. 

Second, consideration implies that putting to practice the love and work of God takes some thoughtful planning. In order for our families and church families to experience God’s love, we’ve got to personalize it for them. In order for us to move on from declaring that love to proving it, the action must stem from observational consideration. The proof of love is in a sacrificial point of good deeds. 

Third, in order to motivate (provoke or spur) people towards these goals, we must experiment. What gets people excited and moving? What gets your people excited and moving? Since all groups and family units have different needs, the motivation methods should be focused on them. It’s all too easy to formulate a strategy and perfect plan, but we’ll never know of any flaws in that plan until others have had the opportunity to communicate their own thoughts. They have knowledge and insight that one person alone lacks. If after careful consideration and prayerful provoking there still isn’t movement, reexamination might be necessary. 

The goal of creating an environment of godly love and work is not a walk in the park, which is why the Hebrew writing records these three steps to success. How much of an impact could we make if we changed, “let’s consider how to spur one another” to “we know what it takes to spur others on.” 

“Blood And Treasure”

“Blood And Treasure”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Bob Drury and Tom Clavin wrote the instant New York Times bestseller book, Blood And Treasure: Daniel Boone and the Fight for America’s First Frontier. The book is gripping and informative, and the title speaks to the price paid by not only Boone but so many others who waded into dangerous conflict with Native American tribes which cost so many lives on both sides and depleted resources from these conflicts but also from the French, British, and even newly-formed American governments. Boone, who narrowly escaped death on many occasions, outlived six of his ten children. James and Israel died violent deaths in conflicts with Native Americans. He lost a brother, Ned, to the same fate. The authors do a masterful job of speaking to the costs paid by many in search of a “better life.”

Daniel Boone had a sister named Hannah Pennington. Her first husband, John Stewart, was killed by Indians. They had four daughters together. She then married Richard Pennington and had four more children, three sons and a daughter. They ultimately migrated to the area right outside the small community of Tompkinsville, Kentucky. The year was 1798, and it was in the area known as “Mill Creek” that the local Baptist preacher named John Mulkey would begin to have misgivings about John Calvin’s teachings on subjects like unconditional election. Ultimately, it would lead him in the fall of 1809 to stand before his congregation and ask all that agreed with him that the Bible alone should be their guide follow him out the west door of what is still to this day called the Old Mulkey Meetinghouse. 150 of the 200 present did so, and Hannah Pennington was in that number. It is estimated that both John Mulkey and his son, also named John, would each baptize about 10,000 people and establish congregations all across the “western reserve” and beyond. 

What price she paid for breaking with the religion of friends and family we are not really told. She died in the home of her son, Daniel Boone Pennington, in 1828 at the age of 82. But she lived at a time when many were making the painful decision of leaving behind the religious tradition of ancestors in favor of following simple New Testament Christianity, participating in an effort that is today often called “The Restoration Movement.” It is an effort we should continue to attempt, to have no book but the Bible and no creed but the Christ. It may be unpopular in a culture that is moving further from the Bible and opposing a great many biblical principles.

What price are we willing to pay? The writer of Hebrews commends the Christians in his audience for their sacrifices as new Christians, who “endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated” (10:32-33). He told them, “…You showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one” (34). But, he expressed this concern about them now, some years later, telling them that “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons” (12:4-5). 

We are searching for something better than a new land on some new frontier on this earth. We seek “a better possession and a lasting one.” What will that cost us? It is hard to say. The writer of Hebrews says it might cost “blood and treasure.” Whatever it costs us, we must be willing to pay in order to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (12:1). 

Read more

Sources Consulted:

Brochure

Anyplace America

John Mulkey

Mulkey Meetinghouse

The Wearied Preacher

The Wearied Preacher

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” (Ecclesiastes 12.12 NASB1995) 

As Solomon reaches the end of his treatise as “The Preacher,” he expresses his feelings, using his life as an example. During his life, as today, people wrote on many topics. If there is a difference between our two eras, it must be that more people today have access to education and can read all of the books that people write. Otherwise, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9). Yet, with education comes self-reflection. And self-reflection often prompts men to take pen to page and write in poetry and prose. Even so, that self-reflection brings melancholy, as with men like Edgar Allen Poe.

And this is where we find Solomon. But even though cynical at this point, Solomon still sounds as if he could have found a home among the other literary figures of the Romantic era, like Alfred Lord Tennyson or Henry David Thoreau. When it is fashionable for men to be scholarly, one notes more men willing to put thoughts and feelings into words. Whatever the rationale, whether to be praised, make money or achieve catharsis, it spawns one of the hallmarks of culture: literature.

Generally speaking, literature and its study are positive. From those writers in the past, concepts have been communicated through time, influencing future generations. Before the Romantic era, the West went through the Age of Enlightenment. Academics and thinkers drew ideas from the classical thought of ancient Greece. Some thinkers in this epoch penned literature the American Founding Fathers read and sparked a revolution. Others, like Sir Isaac Newton, were inspired to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

But then there is another class of literature written by men with a deleterious effect on the reader. No, I am not just talking of the smut peddler, though that is terrible. Instead, I am referring to those like Karl Marx or Adolph Hitler, who took to pen to write dangerous, subversive ideas that upset the course of civilization. Although World War 2 effectively destroyed Hitler’s brand of fascism, Marxism still flourishes in the ivy-covered walls of U.S. colleges and universities. And we have not even mentioned those like Friedrich Nietzsche, who was desirous of taking away his reader’s hope in God.

Even so, the written word remains one of man’s greatest inventions. And it is apropos that the first book produced by a printing press was a copy of God’s Word. That book, the Bible, is itself a compilation of 66 books. And think of the diverse and storied men who wrote those books’ words through the Holy Spirit’s influence: shepherds, kings, tax collectors, tent makers, doctors, et al. So the final product is something we can even enjoy as literature, despite being written for our moral guidance.

In this Information Age, as some have dubbed it, we still have our writers. They may write as I do for a blog, a funny-sounding word that didn’t even exist a half-century ago. It is short for “weblog.” Or they may write for journals, newsletters, and books. But men still write. You may have never guessed that it is a tiresome task, especially when dealing with the denizens of the interwebs. These readers crave new content, not unlike the way the ancient Athenians daily gathered on Mars’ Hill to hear some new thing (Acts 17.21). And if you don’t keep your content fresh, you lose readers. So even if you do not monetize your blog, as this is a non-monetized blog, one still wants to have readers to make the endeavor worthwhile. It is not necessarily a numbers thing, but more eyes ensure that more seed-casting and watering can occur so that God brings an increase (1 Corinthians 3.5-7).

Hence, there is wisdom in distributing this chore to five men, each bringing their perspective to the task. As one who has repeatedly tried and failed at blogging because of physical infirmity and ADHD, one article a week is a fantastic achievement. However, I get tired at even the thought of multiplying that effort by five weekdays. But Solomon pointed out that writing is tiring. Yes, this is not a book, per se. But it is still wearisome. Some may mock how something like preaching, teaching, or writing devotional content could be tiring since it is not blue-collar work. The answer lies within physiology since even the brain of a resting person requires about 20% of the body’s energy.1

There are also emotional highs and lows. Sometimes you become sad like Solomon. When you realize, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10.31 NASB1995), you want to figure out how to convince the most stubborn person of their need to obey God. Sometimes you must surmount cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational differences to do this. So how do I tailor a message to convince this man or woman I desire to win for Christ?

At other times you encounter a gold nugget, something that had never caught your attention in your prior readings through the Scriptures. So, naturally, you want to drop everything and research it, plumbing its depths. But maybe your search leads nowhere. And you end up tossing it upon that humongous pile of things that are the secret things known only to God (cf. Deuteronomy 29.29). Then again, you might hit the Comstock Lode. In this case, not only do you learn something new, but it may even be something that corrects you from the error you ignorantly embraced and taught. At the end of the day, one realizes that he will never exhaust his capacity to learn something from God’s Word. And that should be something that humbles you.

No wonder Solomon ends his message by saying one should not try to tackle the wisdom that we see residing beyond God’s Word. If it can be wearisome to study the Bible, imagine trying to wrap your head around fields of study that are contingent on theories since no one can prove what they believe. For example, just recently, the James Webb Space Telescope showed no signs that the universe is expanding, something necessary if the big bang occurred. There is also no red shift in those galaxies farthest away, indicating no cosmic expansion. So now cosmologists and physicists will go back and have to come up with a new explanation for the universe’s origin. How frustrating, even panic-inducing.2

Solomon sums everything up after the “wearied Preacher’s” last admonition against too much study and “excessive devotion” to books of no eternal value. Our purpose is to fear God and keep His commandments because He will be judging us (12.13-14). If you know enough to save your soul from hell, you are indeed a wise man or woman.  

 

Works Cited 

1 Richardson, Michael W. “How Much Energy Does the Brain Use?” BrainFacts.org, Society for Neuroscience, 1 Feb. 2019, www.brainfacts.org/Brain-Anatomy-and-Function/Anatomy/2019/How-Much-Energy-Does-the-Brain-Use-020119.

2 PlanetMoron. “What If the Big Bang Never Happened? the James Webb Space Telescope Might Change Everything.” Not the Bee, Not the Bee, 22 Aug. 2022, notthebee.com/article/what-if-the-big-bang-never-happened

Motivation For Attending Church Services

Motivation For Attending Church Services

Neal Pollard

“An Italian newspaper recently carried an interesting story about a young couple in Milan who had a wonderful attendance record at a particular cathedral. The priest assumed they were very devoted to their faith because they regularly spent an hour before one of the statues in the church’s worship area.  He thought they were doing some intense praying.  Only later did he discover the couple simply came to re-charge their cell phone from the electrical outlet behind the statue” (King Duncan, via Waterview, Richardson, TX, 3/16/14).

My first reaction to that was to chuckle, then be a little indignant, and then become introspective.  The thought that someone may come to church services for apparent honorable intentions but be serving some baser motive may be shocking, but it is not unheard of.  Jesus taught, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me” (Mat. 15:9).  Jesus is quoting Isaiah, and it was a problem in that prophet’s day, too.  Think of what another prophet wrote.  Ezekiel said, “They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain” (Ezek. 33:31).

When I come before the Great I Am, not only must I keep from distractions.  Deeper than that, I must examine my overall motivation for being at worship or serving the Lord.  Why am I a Christian?  Self-examination is as important as any spiritual exercise there is (2 Cor. 13:5).  Nobody else may know why we are before the Lord in worship, but He does.  May He see our motivation as transparent and true, honest and sincere!  

Christianity In Ten Words

Christianity In Ten Words

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail  

  • In Denver it’s illegal to drive a black car on Sunday. 
  • In Ohio it’s illegal to run out of gas. 
  • In Alabama it’s illegal to drive blindfolded. 
  • In Arizona it’s illegal for a donkey to sleep in a bathtub. 
  • In Hawaii it’s illegal to place a coin inside your ear. 

There are several laws that most have never even heard of and there seems to be no shortage of ridiculous laws that definitely have a good story for their origin. The Jews had over six hundred laws and would often debate over which commands and laws were superior over the others. Was there an ultimate law that reigned supreme? 

Jesus would echo the words of Moses in Matthew 22.37-40 and according to the Son of God, the ultimate command is a summary of faithful living. So the entirety of our purpose in life can be summed up in this one sentence, 

 “you shall love the LORD your God with your— everything.” 

If you love God with everything; every area of your life will be in submission to His will. Your mental power and your strength must be combined to serve Him in unison, and even Paul recognizes how much easier said than done that concept is. In Mark 12.22 Jesus wraps it all together by linking the heart, soul, and strength together. This trifecta of our being can be tamed with discipline and utilized as a powerful force against evil. This is the key to loving Him with our everything. 

Learning Leadership At The Wall

Learning Leadership At The Wall

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

I do not agree with the statement, “The church is only as strong as its weakest member.”  Too many churches have grown despite a few weak members.  However, I do believe that the church is only as strong as its leadership.  

It is not a new trend in our society or in the church—it has always been difficult to convince people to be leaders.  Moses, Joshua, Gideon, Saul, Jeremiah, Jonah, and Peter are just a few men in the days of the Bible who hesitated, even resisted, when called by God to lead.  Leadership has many built-in frustrations—one’s own limitations, the limitations of others, the limits of time, criticism, under-appreciation, feelings of isolation, miscommunication, and added responsibility.  It is a popular pastime of many to criticize the leadership, but if the job were so easy why is there a shortage of leaders?!

Nehemiah stresses the importance of strong leadership throughout the book.  Notice what the Holy Spirit, through this noble and competent leader, reveals about good leadership:

  • Good leaders have a heart of compassion (1:1-4)
  • Good leaders have a strong prayer life (1:5-11)–see 1:5; 2:4; 4:4-9;5:19; 9:17; ch. 13
  • Good leaders have a proven record of leadership (1:11)
  • Good leaders are courageous (2:2-3)
  • Good leaders plan the work well (2:7-9)
  • Good leaders communicate (2:17-18)
  • Good leaders are positive (2:20)
  • Good leaders successfully handle complaints and criticisms (4:7-8; 5:1-6)
  • Good leaders are watchful (4:21-23)
  • Good leaders know there is a place for rebuke (5:7-13)
  • Good leaders are no strangers to sacrifice (5:14-18)
  • Good leaders fear God (5:15)
  • Good leaders are hospitable (5:17)
  • Good leaders encourage the hurting (5:15; 8:9-12)
  • Good leaders avoid distraction (6:2)
  • Good leaders correct misinformation (6:8)
  • Good leaders follow through and aim for completion (6:16)

We can measure Nehemiah’s good leadership through the speed and success of his initial task or the sustained leadership he provided for the next twelve years as governor of Judah. We can measure it by the gentleness he showed the hurting and needy, or by the conviction he showed in correcting the immoral and unethical. There was even his ability to work through problems with his brethren and with the enemy. Nehemiah provided balanced leadership, guided by God and submissive to His plans. That’s what is required of great leadership today!

A Tale Of Two Shepherds

A Tale Of Two Shepherds

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

It’s a safe assumption that even the unchurched have heard the 23rd Psalm, given its connection to funerals or memorial services. It is a most comforting psalm, but we note the implications for the deceased are only found in the final verse, in which David confidently asserts that the righteous dead will dwell in the Lord’s House forever. Otherwise, the psalm depicts what the Good Shepherd does for His living sheep. In the New Testament, Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10.11,14).  

In contrast to the 23rd Psalm, Jesus is the One walking not only in the shadow of the valley of death but into the grave itself, laying down His life for the sheep. However, this difference does not suggest that Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, does not still provide the same blessings to God’s sheep living under the New Covenant. Indeed, John 10.10 tells us He gives us abundant life. So, the first Shepherd, the One with Whom we are most familiar, is the Shepherd Whose voice we must hear (John 10.3-5, 14-16). 

But what of the other shepherd? For illustrative purposes, we will call him “Mammon.” In Psalm 49, the psalmist, presumably one of Korah’s sons, presents a didactic poem. Essentially, by calling it didactic, we are acknowledging that it is a poem that teaches an important lesson (or lessons). The instruction found in Psalm 49 is a warning against trusting in one’s riches. In Psalm 49.14, the psalmist says: 

“They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions” (NASB1995). 

Despite sounding like a 1980s hair metal band, the 49th Psalm teaches about the “Death Shepherd.” The “they” in the first part of verse 14 are those trusting in material wealth. The latter part of the verse reveals that death will separate them from their wealth. Note that the son of Korah provides a parenthetical contrast. The upright will prevail over them in the morning. Commentators acknowledge this is an understanding of a coming resurrection day, even if not explicitly stated. You can come away with no other interpretation, especially as you read the next verse. 

“But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself” (Psalm 49.15 NASB1995).  

On the other hand, Mammon will prevent you from being able to serve God (Matthew 6.24). He fills one with anxiety and makes them forget the Providence of God (Matthew 6.25-34). The Death Shepherd is an enticing distraction, not unlike the storied Pied Piper of Hamelin, who led away the innocents with his magical piping. The Death Shepherd entrances the susceptible sheep with wealth but pastures them in destruction from which the sheep cannot escape. Both this son of Korah and Jesus, through His Parable of the Rich Fool, remind us that one’s riches end up the property of another after death (Psalm 49.10; Luke 12.16-21). Thus, one forfeits his or her immortal spirit for nothing worthwhile compared to the price he or she pays (Matthew 16.26).  

Two voices are calling to the sheep today. One is the voice of the Good Shepherd. The other voice is the Death Shepherd. Endeavor to make sure you heed the correct One so that you end up in the correct sheepfold!