Categories
forgiveness

Fantastic Fact About Forgiveness

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

When we forgive someone we usually do not forget what we forgave. Unless there is an underlying condition, our minds do not automatically or immediately delete irrelevant information, like something we no longer hold against another person. Because of this, it can be hard to understand what God’s forgiveness means for the Christian. We’ll think, “I know He has forgiven me, but there’s no way He’s forgotten about it. Maybe it will ‘cloud’ His decision to forgive me next time I ask.” 

This is a very common mindset, and one that I struggle with daily. When we look at scripture, though, it paints a very different picture of what God’s forgiveness really does! 

Forgiveness is the word ἀφίημι (afiemi). It has several definitions, according to Bauer: 

1. To dismiss or release someone from a place or presence. 

2. To release from a moral obligation or consequence, to cancel, remit, or pardon. 

3. To move away with implication of causing a separation, to leave or depart from. 

(BDAG 155)

Knowing this, we should look at Hebrews 8.12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will not remember their sins anymore.” We understand that context is geared toward contrasting the old and new covenant, but it at least gives us insight into the process behind forgiveness. 

When we get forgiveness from God, that sin is eradicated. It no longer exists, it will not affect our relationship with God anymore. “Remember” in Hebrews eight is, “To call information to memory.” It’s not only that God no longer holds a sin against us, it’s that it ceases to exist in His mind. How awesome is that? 

When we ask God for forgiveness, let’s approach His throne with humility, yes, but also with confidence that He has the power and desire to make that sin disappear from our account forever. 

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Categories
Christ culture evangelism

Sharing The Filling Fullness Of Christ

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Some phrases in the Bible are simple to read, but very difficult to comprehend. In this article, I’d like to walk through a process together in an attempt to make sense of a difficult phrase (thanks, Paul). One of those is in Ephesians 1.23: “…the fullness of him who fills all in all.” This is a description of Jesus, specifically as it relates to His being the head of the church. But what does that phrase mean? 

I will not pretend to have the answer, but I would like to make a couple of suggestions. Firstly, “fullness” appears to describe the church. In my limited knowledge of Greek, it seems to be grammatically tied to “body.” The church – His body – is His fullness. Both are nominative, both are the subject of the sentence. 

Secondly, Jesus fills all in all. It’s that last phrase that’s so hard for me to comprehend. What does it mean, that “He fills all in all?” Based on the fact that some form of “fullness” is used three times in a single phrase, it appears to have reference to his nature. He is not confined by time or space and is present everywhere. 

If the church is His fullness (the word is possessive in Greek), and He is omnipresent (or, creation is full of Him), then the church must be extremely important. Again, I am not a scholar, I may be mistaken. 

I would, though, like to attempt to make application from this difficult phrase. If the church is, ideally, representative of the very nature of Christ, are we living up to it? Is our passion for the lost like His was/is? Is our love for each other as strong as His is for the church? Do we treat the church as if it were the body of Christ (because it is)? Do we keep in mind, as we interact with each other, that we all answer to Him? Are we trying to mold culture to His image, or are we being molded to culture? 

We really have to think about this one to try to make sense of it. Comprehending this phrase is anything but easy (at least for me!). But the church – which is one distinct unit, not a series of denominations – is supposed to represent Jesus. Our values, our demeanor, our goals, our mission, our attitudes, our behavior, and our purpose should scream to others, “We are not of this world.” If these do not, we are not representing Jesus. No one will do this perfectly, but the standard is high. 

When we begin to understand this phrase a little more, it shifts from being hard to understand to being hard to hear. We have a huge responsibility, but we also have a global family to support us. The standard is high, but our Head is also our Savior. As things slowly go back to normal, let’s keep this in mind! We’re not just Christians to be good people, we’re Christians to show the world who Jesus is.

Categories
blessings gratitude

“Schrodinger’s Spring”​

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

This has been a beautiful spring. I cannot recall a time in recent memory when I’ve noted so many dogwood flowers in the trees. Our daffodils have been more prolific as well. There is phlox and violets blooming throughout the yard. Since I know that it is through nature that God first reveals Himself to us (cf. Romans 1.20), I could not help if wonder if what I have been seeing is providential. Think about it. We are in the midst of a pandemic and have been asked to shelter in place. What if God providentially boosted the fertility of the spring to grab the attention of all of the people stuck at home? It is a nice thought, isn’t it? Certainly, those who’ve inherited the earth (Matthew 5L5) would take notice of that.

Yet, the truth is, I cannot say this with any degree of certainty. My statement about this spring’s beauty is contingent on the amount of attention I have paid to it this year as well as the joy I’ve experienced having more time to spend outdoors since “normal” life has been shut down. The thought has occurred to me that maybe every spring is as beautiful, I’ve just been too busy or distracted to notice. Perhaps, there were plenty of equally beautiful things that had existed but went unobserved.

Maybe you’ve heard of “Schrodinger’s cat.” This is a thought experiment proposed by physicist Erwin Schrodinger, based on idea he had gotten from Albert Einstein. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, a poor kitty is imperiled by two deadly things inside a closed box. After an hour, you check to see if the cat has died. As crazy as it sounds, quantum mechanics allows for the cat to be both alive and dead until such time as one makes an observation; that is, until he or she opens the box. It is at the point of observation that the fate of the cat goes from superposition to a single state. If you find the thought experiment flawed, you’re not alone. Other physicists thought that it was ridiculous that a cat’s fate was contingent on whether or not we observed it. The radiation or the poisoned air would have killed the cat long before we opened the box. Another camp gave it a many-worlds interpretation. In other words, they say that upon opening the box, you as the observer become entangled with the cat on a quantum level and you both continue on in a reality in which the cat is either alive or dead. Since there are two possibilities, two worlds result in which the cat is alive and the cat is dead.

I apologize if I thoroughly confused you. Fortunately, it is not the wisdom of man that saves, but the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1.19-21). However, I referenced the thought experiment in order to frame my concept of a “Schrodinger’s spring.” God’s natural laws lead to a rebirth every year that He gives as we go from winter’s death to spring’s life. Because Christ sustains this creation (Colossians 1.15-17), we know that the promise God made with Noah will be kept (cf. Genesis 8.22). Hence, there will be “seedtime and harvest.” Yet, as I admitted about myself, there have likely been many years when I have failed to observe this unfolding process. There is a sense in which I allowed myself to be taken into a different world, one devoid of the joy God’s creation brings. We can do this when it comes to many different things besides nature, can’t we?

When I fail to note God’s providence and majesty, I create a world for myself that lacks contentment and joy. I don’t look to become satisfied with the state in which I am (cf. Philippians 4.11-13), but waste my life yearning for something else. We see the difference taking a moment to express gratitude made in the life of one former, Samaritan leper. Jesus had already cleansed his flesh, but extended forgiveness to him in response to the gratitude he had shown (Luke 17.18). A thankful heart is more predisposed to recognize the blessings of God, including the provisions made for our salvation. This is why, as with the cleansed Samaritan, it prompts worship. In what other way can we respond but with that desire to prostrate ourselves at His feet?

The next time you see the smiling face of the a child or a colorful sunset, remember “Schrodinger’s spring.” God has certainly surrounded you with blessings. It may be that in the hustle and bustle of life you simply haven’t had the time to notice. Make observations and change your reality as well.

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Categories
fellowship peace unity

Untied States

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

My wife and I were watching an NCIS episode where terrorists attempt to use fake currency to carry out an attack on the U.S. power grid. Their trail was picked up when instead of “United States” on the bills, “Untied States,” was found. 

With the pandemic we’re facing, we have briefly enjoyed some unity not seen in seven decades. A lot of the partisan stuff has slowed, a lot of the animosity between political parties has simmered down, and people are beginning to treat each other like neighbors again. 

With the cautiously optimistic breakthroughs in our fight against this virus, we seem to be slipping back into the “Untied States.”  I think our enjoyment of the peace accompanying this unity will stick around and we’ll be as neighborly as we have been, even after quarantines have been lifted. We’re witnessing the ugliness of a government not unified and perhaps we will have gained some perspective as a result of this global trial. 

That feeling of relief, calm, peace, reset, unity, and love has to be what God feels when His church is unified. It is what we experience when we put others above ourselves and treat each other like family. 

We have a super cool opportunity once quarantines are lifted! I miss my family at Hebron like crazy – I’m not alone in missing my church family. We have a chance to use that momentum to love more, be more selfless, argue less, and encourage more. If we take these qualities and run with them, the church will grow like wildfire. Beyond that, the world will see the love we have and will want to be a part of it. 

John 13.35 

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Scene from a church potluck
Categories
eternal life hope promises

THE POWER OF HOPE

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

Have you been struggling with some feelings of hopelessness lately? Whenever we have a hard time seeing the end in sight or we face uncertainty or are exposed to fears and anxieties, it can undermine our determination to have hope. Yet, over a hundred times in Scripture, God points us to the hope His children have through Him and His promises. We have such a resource because of the rock-solid expectation He provides. Whatever may happen to us this week, this month, or this year, the Christian can look forward with confidence at the fulfillment of what God through Christ promises us. And Scripture says it so many ways:

–Hope does not disappoint (Romans 5:5)
–Hope helps us persevere with eagerness (Romans 8:24-25)
–Hope causes rejoicing (Romans 12:12)
–Hope fills you with all joy and peace in believing (Romans 15:13)
–Hope is an abiding quality, alongside such elite qualities as faith and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
–Hope enables deliverance (2 Corinthians 1:10)
–There is one, unconquerable hope (Ephesians 1:18; 4:4)
–Hope is tied to earnest expectation and boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12; Philippians 1:20)
–Hope is connected to steadfastness (Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 1:3)
–Hope offsets grief (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
–Hope tunes our hearts to look for Jesus’ appearing (1 Timothy 4:10; Titus 2:13)
–Hope encourages the pursuit of our eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7)
–Hope anchors the soul (Hebrews 6:19)
–Hope helps us draw near to God (Hebrews 7:19)
–Hope is tied to endurance (Hebrews 10:23)
–Hope is instrumental to faith (Hebrews 11:1)
–Hope prepares for eternity (Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3,13)
–Hope helps give a defense (1 Peter 3:15)
–Hope purifies (1 John 3:3)

Remember this:

“How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God” (Psalm 146:5).
“The hope of the righteous is gladness…” (Proverbs 10:28).
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him” (Lamentations 3:24).
“Christ Jesus…is our hope” (1 Timothy 1:1). 

You will face nothing today or ever that is too destructive, terrifying, or powerful to offset this hope! That doesn’t mean be rash, reckless, or rebellious. It does mean be faith-filled, optimistic, and courageous! Are your faith and hope in God (1 Peter 1:21)?  

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Categories
blessings money rich wealth

Some Perspective, Please!

Neal Pollard

–I have taught a Bible study in the hut of a woman in a jungle village of southeast Asia. She had no furniture and only a couple of cooking vessels and utensils. Her one-room house was thatched in a place that averages an inch or more of rain each week. Her lifestyle reflected that of nearly all of her neighbors. 

–I have stayed in the house of a faithful, fruitful gospel preacher in west Africa. One night, the temperature in the house was 91 degrees overnight. The interior walls were made of styrofoam, thin enough to hear the rats scurrying around and scratching behind them. They were actually better off than most in their village. 

–I have stayed not far from the Bay of Bengal in a crowded city across from a leper colony. Taking a bath/shower consisted of using a large cup from a single spigot in a “bathroom” where the water ran a light brown color. Within a hundred miles of there, at least 100,000 people were living under cardboard boxes and old tarps.

–I met a man at a church service in east Africa who made his living working in a gem mine. He and his wife had four children of their own. Their neighbors both died of AIDS, leaving their three children orphaned. This Christian and his wife adopted them. He made $2 per day and Sunday was his only day off. He supported a household of nine on less than $15 per week. 

In every one of the examples above, I was only there for a couple of weeks and returned home to hot water, running water, reliable shelter and automobiles, and a thousand other amenities. 

Many of the people in our world, before the current pandemic, struggled to survive through subsistence farming, poor nutrition, virtually non-existent healthcare, and little access to education. This sets up a cycle of poverty and disease that lowers life expectancy to middle-age at best. Sports, vacations, retirement plans, and insurance are, for many, a pipe dream if even a concept they have ever entertained. I once drove past a slum in a capitol city that was part of 2.5 million homeless people living in what was essentially a trash dump. 

The current crisis is real and impactful. It has required adjustments, changes, and sacrifices. Yet, from a medical, monetary, and material standpoint, we still find ourselves at the top of over 200 nations in just about every earthly way things can be measured. This is a time for us to pause and humbly thank God for His abundant blessings, to ask forgiveness for complaining in the face of such generosity, and to seek His guidance in how we can use this time to focus on others’ needs and helping those who are truly unfortunate. Matthew 25:31-46 is a convicting text, where the Lord tells us He watches how we respond to the hungry, thirsty, naked, stranger, sick, and imprisoned among “the least” of the world. Perhaps what we are going through now is a door of opportunity, to sharpen our perspective on what is essential and what is extra. Let it begin with me!

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Categories
blessings preaching Uncategorized

“BLESSED”

Neal Pollard

I’ve never known a day when I didn’t live in a “preacher’s home.” “Preacher’s homes” are very much like every other home–problems, inside jokes, traditions, hobbies and interests, sin, laughter–except the chosen profession of the father is to serve either full-time or part-time as a proclaimer of God’s Word. At times, the home I grew up in was made of figurative glass, meaning I was occasionally subjected to unfair favoritism and criticism.  Kathy, also a lifetime resident of a “preacher’s home,” knows that feeling, too. Then, we subjected our sons to the exact same thing!

Whenever we are asked about what it is like to live this unique life (and lifestyle), different words would be appropriate:

  • Challenging–There can be elevated expectations and unrealistic assumptions about the preacher’s personal life, marriage, parenting, and the like. What Shakespeare’s Jewish character says of his people in the “Merchant of Venice” applies: “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?” Life’s pressures and temptations visit our homes, too. 
  • Lonely–Occasionally, we feel alone and stand alone because of the message we preach. Usually, it’s not others who make us feel this way, but an innate part of the life.
  • Ordinary–Most preachers probably love to hear church members and those in the community say, “You’re just an ordinary person with an ordinary life.” To be genuine and real is, in my view, a worthy aim. See the opening paragraph.

But, please understand that the most fitting, usual words used to describe the life in preaching are positive, superlative words and phrases–“important,” “exciting,” “fulfilling,” “full,” “rewarding,” “humbling,” “meaningful,”and “uplifting.” Yesterday, we said “so long” to one of God’s greatest churches as we prepare to move to work with another one. I asked Kathy to describe a one-word assessment that best described how she felt in light of the generous words and acts from our spiritual family throughout the day. She used words like “Overwhelmed,” “grateful,” and “touched.” But then, scanning her brilliant mind as if to find that perfect summary word (as she usually does), she simply said, “Blessed.” 

We’ve been blessed by a lifetime of living the “preacher life.” Blessed by 27 years of full-time preaching. Blessed by 13 years of preaching at Bear Valley. Blessed by the opportunity to preach in this “next chapter” of life at Lehman Avenue. Blessed, as cracked pots (2 Cor. 4:7), to be used by the Master Potter. Far from a perfect life, it is certainly a blessed life. 

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Thank you, Bear Valley, for your many acts of kindness–yesterday and for the entirety of our time with you in Colorado. We love you and will miss you!
Categories
gratitude thankfulness thanksgiving Uncategorized

Are You Grateful?

Neal Pollard

Jesus asked a lone, appreciative soul, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18). They were terrified (13), terminal (12), transformed (14), but they were not thankful. They were saved, but to what end? They were selfish and not spiritual. God made them whole, and what did they do? They blended into the world when they should have blessed The Word.

Ingratitude increasingly characterizes man’s interaction with man–the etiquette of thank you cards is rarer, the feelings of loyalty and appreciation for the American military and first responders is waning, and many have forgiven themselves of the debt owed to generations past whose sacrifice has led us to national plenty. This is not all-inclusive and at times there are spikes of improvement and pleasant, positive change toward greater thankfulness.

Yet, since the time when Christ’s sandals kicked up dust in Palestine, people have failed to show gratitude to Him. that the ingratitude comes from those whom He saved from the devil’s disease and death is remarkable! Yet, we all struggle with that sin.

New Testament writers point out how grave an error ingratitude is. Paul warned about the “ungrateful” (2 Tim. 3:2) who would ultimately make no spiritual progress. God rejects as foolish and futile those who “glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful” (Rom. 1:21). Someone may ask, “Why make such a big deal about something so seemingly minor?”

Is it minor? If we’re not thankful to God, one or more things have occurred. (1) We are convinced there is no eternity and it’s all about here and now. (2) We have forgotten how it felt to be forgiven. (3) We believe that everything is about us and nothing is about anyone else, let alone God. (4) We have come to believe that sin is just no big deal. (5) We think we owe everything we have and are to no one but ourselves. No doubt, more answers could be postulated, but here is the bottom line. A failure to thank God for His abundant blessings makes one in more dire condition than any leper ever was. We may not be losing our extremities, our hair may not be turning bleach white, we may not have painful sores, and we may not be social outcasts. But, here is what has happened. Our heart is cold, our soul is endangered, we’re in denial, and we’re blinded to the realest of realities.

Won’t you say with David, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving And His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name.For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:4-5)? Stop and think how much you owe to God. Translate that gratitude into godly servitude. Give Him your best. Give Him yourself. Give Him your thanks. 

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Categories
blessings gratitude thankfulness thanksgiving Uncategorized

Assorted Blessings

Neal Pollard

Running water. Electricity. A stove. A microwave. Family. Sanity. Health. Domestic tranquility. Health care. Dexterity. Opposable thumbs. Involuntary muscle movement. Singing. Friends. Children. Parents. Nature. Mountains. Breezes. Fireplaces. Automobiles. Law enforcement. Aspirin. Hot water. Showers. Eyesight. Clotting. Emotions. Dogs. Sunsets. Siblings. The ocean. Companionship. Passion. Nerve endings. Shelter. Rocking chairs. Reading. Running. Refrigerators. Board games. Evangelism. The church. Firefighters. Pockets. Paved highways. Ozone. Cotton. Kindness. Shoes. Trees. Songbirds. Smiles. Waves. Shoes. The wisdom of the aged. Elders. Dentists. Coffee. Babies. Modesty. Make up. Music. Lights. Stars. Comfortable chairs. Eyeglasses. Leftovers. Devotionals. Airplanes. Sunrise. FedEx. Interstates. Telephones. Fresh, hot, and homemade bread. GPS. Front porch swings. Memories. Fertile fields. Prayer. Reading comprehension. Hearing. Smelling. Touching. Tasting. Harmony. Trust. Forgiveness. Wedding cake. Teachers. A spirit of cooperation. Sunglasses. Charity. Soap. Good neighbors. Fresh fruit. Beds. Fireflies. Encouragement. Imagination. The Lord’s church. Coffee. Thread. Belts. Livestock. Peace and quiet. Laughter. Pain. Flowers. Hikes. Language. Swallowing. Breathing. Teeth. The Bible. Maps. Love. Blankets. Wildlife. Humor. Curtains. Bedspreads. Snow. Sunshine. Rain. Clouds. Hope. Canned goods. Grandparents. Fellowship. Heaven. Providence. The cross.

“Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17)

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Categories
blessings promises Uncategorized

Appreciating The Blessings In A Key Text

Neal Pollard

Joshua 21:43-45 is the key text in that book because at this point that Joshua can say that God gave everything that had been promised. With the settling of the land, the land promise made to Abraham was now fulfilled. Israel was not fully a nation after becoming a people and having law, but now they are. Notice the facets of God’s promise to them.

“So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their Fathers” (43). God gave them physical blessings. They owned and called home the land God promised their ancestors.

“The Lord gave them rest on every side” (44). He gave them emotional blessings. This was a long time in coming for these battle-weary warriors. The anxiety of being the underdog, of facing frightening foes, all of that (at least for now) was behind them.

“No one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand” (44). He gave them spiritual blessings. These idolaters and heathen people could not stand before them and the Lord dispossessed them, giving them into the hands of His chosen people.

No wonder this summary statement is made: “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass” (45). This was the God of Joshua. It’s also the God of us.

This text shows us how comprehensively God blessed the lives of His children. These verses speak of a material inheritance. Even if it is the choicest spot on the globe, it cannot compare to what God will give to His faithful. Let’s rejoice in the hope Peter shares, regarding the promise of His coming (2 Pet. 3:4). He writes, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:10-14).

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The supposed “Garden of Gethsemane” (photo credit: Carla Moore)