Proceed

Proceed

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

I have some hobbies/passions that require caution: motorcycles, shooting, off-roading, auto mechanics. These are things that could be dangerous, but are enjoyable and safe if appropriate caution is used.
 
The reason any person would get on a motorcycle or under their vehicle or into a swamp or behind an optic is the reward associated with those activities. There’s no freedom like riding back roads or around beautiful scenery on a cruiser. Saving hundreds on auto repairs makes the effort worth it. Seeing how much mud/water/rock/terrain you can keep moving through is a blast. Racing the timer and improving consistency, all while hearing the satisfying “ding” of a steel target is exhilarating.
 
If an activity is enjoyable – potentially risky, but fun – we tend to do it anyway, with appropriate caution. Even those who don’t enjoy these kinds of activities are likely licensed drivers and are glad to assume the risks involved with driving (according to the WHO, 1.25 million die in a wreck worldwide every year, with an additional 20-50 million getting injured or disabled).
 
I cannot justify being willing to assume risks in many other aspects of my life, but cutting out the one aspect that impacts eternity. The CDC has accidents as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Most of us drive to go anywhere or do anything more than a mile or so away, and we do this without a second thought.
 
Even if Christian fellowship were the most dangerous activity possible (for many in the early church it was, for some today it might be), we should be willing to pursue it. We could never hope for a greater reward than we will receive for the risk we might assume when we come together as a church.
 
(Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25)
“They Were Together”

“They Were Together”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

When I study the phenomenal growth of the New Testament church, there is no doubt that they owed that growth to the divine source of the message they preached and the dedicated way in which the early Christians spread the good news. They also believed that message with all their heart, and that faith drove a sense of dedication and commitment no matter what obstacles they encountered. But, along with factors like those, they grew because they needed one another. They spent time together, not just in their assembly times, but at other times.

Luke highlights this fact. “They were continually devoting themselves to fellowship” (Acts 2:42).  “They were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46). “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32). They got together to pray (Acts 4:23ff; 12:5,12). They got together daily for preaching and teaching (Acts 5:42). Though the word is used in a wide variety of contexts, you’ll find the word “together” over 30 times in Acts. 

Isolation is the word to best describe the trend in the current culture. Much of it is self-imposed, with so many withdrawing from social contact for such reasons as the ironically-named “social media” and technology. We have created a virtual world that, to some degree, has replaced authentic, face-to-face interaction. 

“Community” is built upon commonality and likemindedness. Sports, politics, civic and social interests, and the like all draw people together into circles of sameness. Nothing should compel any of us more than our faith in Christ, the salvation He freely gave us, and the incredible, eternal future He has promised us. What an ironclad bond, this “like precious faith” (2 Pet. 1:1)! There is no greater bond of closeness I can imagine than spending time with people whose hearts are open and submissive to the commands of Scripture and whose lives are lived in faith and hope in the promises of Scripture. They can help me grow and build my desire. Or, as the Hebrews writer says regarding assembly times, we can “stimulate one another to love and good deeds” (10:24). 

When I was a teen, I remember a song that captured this sentiment perfectly, if simply: “Fellowshipping with one another as we’re walking in the light, when we give our hearts to each other you can feel the love inside. For there’s nothing as sweet as fellowship as we share each other’s lives” (Lancaster). Not bitterness, isolation, suspicion, grudge-bearing, apathy, or disinterest. Sweet fellowship! A church that grasps this will grow and thrive, strengthened and sustained through trials, problems, and opposition. May we be a church that’s remembered this way–“They were together!”

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Photo credit: Rachel Wheat

SUNDAY MORN

SUNDAY MORN

Neal Pollard

I love to watch the sun come up
The first day of the week
I long for the bread and the cup
For the privilege of the gospel to speak
I love to see the saints assemble
To blend my voice with them in song
To smile, engage, contemplate, tremble
How ever much time it takes is not long
Each day is a blessing given from God
And filled with gifts and blessing
But one day helps the others get trod
“Which one?” There is no guessing!
It is that special day the church unites
The day when the church was born
And shouldn’t this all God’s ones excite
To worship God on Sunday morn?