Categories
behavior Christ righteousness

Can Others See the Christ In You?

Brent Pollard

Once I preferred laptops, but since the advent of Android and Apple tablets, I migrated back to the desktop PC. When attempting to accomplish work, there is something to be said for sitting at a dedicated workspace to help productivity. Even so, I usually choose desktop wallpaper to reflect my interests from the religious to whimsical. My capricious nature typically ensures that wallpaper is changed frequently.  

One day after having selected an artist’s rendering of the Christ wearing a crown of thorns for my wallpaper, I noted how I had allowed the desktop of my PC to become cluttered with icons and files. Though they made finding things more manageable, they obscured the image I had chosen for my inspiration. I had to do some cleaning so that I could once again see Christ! 

Spiritually, I feel as if we sometimes equally “mask” the presence of the Christ in our lives. It is not our intention to do so, of course. We are just going about our regular business. Yet, there comes the point in out lives in which we begin doing what we feel is most convenient, despite what this “convenience” does to the presence of the Christ in our lies. Soon, others are unable to readily see the Christ in our lives since He has become obscured by our ephemera. If this persists, others will be unable to see Him at all.  

When this happens, it is time to clean up or bring order to the chaos. One needs to put things in their proper place so that the image of Christ becomes accentuated rather than obscured (cf. Matthew 6.33). It may take a bit of work, but the effort is worth more than anything else in this world because of its eternal implications. 

Dear reader, are others able to see the Christ in your life? If not, perhaps it is time for spiritual cleansing. The only thing equal to the task, great or small, is the blood of Jesus Christ. For the one having never clothed him or herself in Christ (Galatians 3.27), baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38). For the immersed believer, the blood of Christ continuously cleanses us as we walk in fellowship with Him and fellow Christians (1 John 1.7).  

Check your image in the spiritual mirror (James 1.22-25). If you cannot see the Christ, rest assured others cannot see Him either. Let us always strive so others can see the Christ in us.   

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
righteousness sin

A Bat’s Worst Nightmare

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

I’m gonna be honest. I am not a fan of winter. It’s cold, snow is terrible, It’s freezing, and I hate snow. The worst thing about winter is that It gets dark at like 3 pm. In the summer you have these nice long, warm days but In the winter you got about 6 hours of daylight before it gets dark again.
Darkness is referred to quite a bit in scripture and many times it is used to describe sin. For example, “Walking in darkness” = walking in sin. “Living in darkness” = living in sin.
As Christians we are described as being taken out of darkness (sin) to walk in light (righteousness) (Ephesians 5).
But how did we get to this point? We read in John 8:12, “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Because of Christ and His sacrifice and love for us we can now have the light of life. Without Christ we are forever in darkness, but with Christ he is our light that leads to salvation.
The choice to follow Christ means that our standard is The Light. Notice, He says, “will not walk in darkness…” This word is skotia which is described as, “the state of being devoid of light, darkness, gloom.” When we choose to live like the world, there is no light in us. When we remove Christ as our guide and live in sin, we are plunged into darkness.
But if He is our standard of living, in hard times we will have light, when we lose a loved one we will have light, and when we face difficult decisions we will have light.
The question we need to ask ourselves is this, “Do we prefer darkness over light? Do we prefer sin over righteousness?” The choice is ours, and each one of us makes this decision every day.
You may be asking what all of this has to do with the pandemic going on right now…well a bat started this whole thing, and bats live in caves, caves are dark and living in darkness is living in sin. Don’t be a bat.
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Categories
false teachers immorality legalism

CHURCH INVADERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

During a prayer recently, a brother thanked God that our congregation had not been “invaded.” I thought it was an interesting, thoughtful way to thank God for His protection from physical harm, but it also took my mind in another direction. More often than we’ve faced armed intruders, the Lord’s church has had its share of others who have snuck or pushed their way in and to detrimental results.

Churches Have Been Invaded By Wolves. They are described in stark terms, being “ravenous” (Mat. 7:15) and “savage” (Acts 20:29). They do as Ezekiel described, “tearing the prey” (33:27). The Bible is describing false teachers who speak perverse things to draw away disciples after themselves. What’s so alarming is that these are “from among your own selves” (Acts 20:30). These are individuals whose teaching is false by the Bible’s standards, and the fruit of whose teaching causes people to be severed in their relationship to God. Jude describes them as those who can creep in unnoticed, “ungodly persons who turn the grace of God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). God’s remedies to stop such church invaders are godly, qualified shepherds (Acts 20:28-30; cf. John 10:12) and active, thoughtful Bible students who effectively discern spiritual fruit (Jude 3; Mat. 7:15-20). 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Leaven. Paul addresses an issue “within the church” at Corinth (1 Cor. 5:12), which he illustrates by referring to “a little leaven” that “leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6). The leavening influence here was unchecked sexual immorality that the church came to accept rather than address. Paul urges Corinth to take action regarding immoralities like those he lists in verses 9 through 11. When a church normalizes and embraces what Scripture condemns, it has been invaded and taken over from God’s will. Churches who adapt views which accommodate the moral decline of their members rather than challenge their members to rise up to The Standard have been invaded. 

Churches Have Been Invaded By Legalists. Jesus targeted the Pharisees more often than any other single group in the gospels. He is most plain in Matthew 23, noting that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses” (2). While in context Jesus is dealing with matters under the Old Law, what He observes continues to today. How many have put themselves in the seat that rightfully belongs only to God? They exact rules that are too hard for anyone, even themselves, to follow (4), that are borne of improper motives (5-12), that are harder than God’s rules (13), that make disciples of themselves rather than Jesus (15), that major in the minors (23-25), and that create superficial righteousness and inward rottenness (27-28). Such churches are afflicted with those who appear alive, but are spiritually dead. 

Surely we want “to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). There’s only one Lord for the one body (Eph. 4:5). He is head over all things to the church, which is His body (Eph. 1:22-23). That is the basis and marching orders for us to prevent any and all “church invaders.” May we keep vigilant to protect the purity of His church (cf. Eph. 6:10-17)! 

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Categories
authority church church function church organization

God’s “House-Law”

Wednesday’s Column: “Third’s Words”

Gary Pollard

Every home has some kind of system in place to keep order. Maybe you were told to take your shoes off at the door, keep your elbows off the table, make your bed in the morning, or brush your teeth more than twice a month. Every home is different and the expectations for conduct and cleanliness vary accordingly. However your home was structured, you were at least bound to a set of rules in some form.

God’s house is no different. I’m not just talking about the building we meet in for worship, but that anytime His family offers up worship to Him we are expected to follow His rules. I Timothy 1.4 talks about God’s “house-law” (often mistranslated “stewardship” or “godly edification”). The word is οικονομία (oikonomia), combining οίκος (house) with νόμος (law). What does this mean in context? In I Timothy Paul publicly berates two members who were teaching “myths and endless genealogies which do not promote the house law of God in faith” (1.3, 4; 20).

If any teaching goes against what God has told us He wants, it’s a violation of His house-law. We understand this when it comes to daily life outside of religious activities. If we break the law we are held accountable to it. We understand that violating the laws our governments put in place to maintain order and promote justice carries consequences. Some, though, do not act as if the same applies to God’s people in a religious context.

God’s house-law is more specifically defined in I Timothy 2.1-8. Anytime and anywhere Christian men and women offer worship together, God expects qualified Christian men to lead. This is made clear with the phrase, “…in every place” (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

Not just any man can lead, though! He must be someone who is able to lift holy hands (that is, he is pure in life and can offer worship without the stain of sin), he must be cool-headed, and he can’t be unstable in his faith (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

God expects women to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves (2.9, 10) and are to allow godly men to lead them in worship (2.11-14). His house, his rules.

In all of my vast wisdom and experience as a child, I didn’t always agree with or like all of my family’s house rules. Probably every teen and their unfortunate parents experience this. My feelings about a house rule did not alter its validity in any way. It was not my house so I was not in a position to change or violate the rules. Trying to do so was not only futile but often carried consequences.

God’s design for His church is not acceptable to the secular world. In their disagreement or downright hostility toward it they have pushed many churches into changing God’s house-laws. This doesn’t fly in the legal world, the home, or in any setting where rules were set in place by those most qualified to make them. Why would it work with God?

We may not always understand why God made the laws that He did, but this is where the faith aspect of 1 Timothy 1.4 comes into play. We have to ask ourselves, “Do we trust that God knew what He was doing when He made these laws, and do I really want to challenge Him on the rules He made for His own family?” At the end of the day we must remember that in God’s house we follow God’s laws. Many of the problems facing the church in 2020 can be solved simply by accepting this fact! If we do – as in any family – we will not only have harmony in the church, but a permanent, peaceful home with God after this life.

Job 38.4-7

Categories
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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Categories
Christ church church (nature) church of Christ unity

“THE CHURCH”

Neal Pollard

Did you know that Paul uses the phrase, “the church” nine times in the relatively brief letter to the church at Ephesus? This is a church Paul worked with for three years (Acts 20:18,31). He taught them in person and then he sends this epistle full of teaching (Eph. 1-3) and application (Eph. 4-6). In both parts of the letter, he makes important statements about “the church.”

• “(God) gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body…” (1:22-23a; see 4:4).

• The manifold wisdom of God is meant to be made known by the church (3:10).

• God’s glory is meant to be shined through the church (3:21).

• Christ is the head and savior of the church (5:23).

• The church is subject to Christ (5:24).

• Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her (5:25).

• Christ seeks to present to Himself the church in all her glory (5:27).

• Christ nourishes and cherishes the church (5:29).

• The husband/wife illustration is about Christ and the church (5:32).

When you add in the times Paul discusses “the body” (1:23; 2:16; 3:8; 4:4; 4:12; 4:16; 5:23; 5:30), it is easy to see why Ephesians has often been labeled the book which exalts the church of the Christ (in contrast with Colossians, touted as the book which exalts the Christ of the church).

Ephesians destroys the concept of the religious division also known as denominationalism. Where Christ has spoken on how to be saved, how to worship, how the church is to be organized and led, and religious bodies teach as divine doctrine the precepts of men (Mat. 15:9), they become plants which the heavenly Father has not planted (Mat. 15:13). If that is true of what the Pharisees did with God’s law concerning honoring father and mother (Mat. 15:3ff), doesn’t it follow that it would include all of Christ’s doctrine?

Ephesians is a great letter to discover the truth that Christ desires religious unity among believers, a unity derived from believers submitting to His teaching and will. But to limit our interpretation of this book to just that idea is a tragic shortcoming. The whole letter begins with a powerful, humbling truth: “God chose us” (1:4). We are His treasures, the praise of His glory. We are precious and valuable to Him–He predestined us to adoption as sons (1:5), He redeemed us with His blood (1:7), He lavished us with His grace (1:8), He made known to us the mystery of His will (1:9), He gave us an inheritance (1:11), hope (1:12), and a pledge (1:13-14) that we might be wise, knowledgeable of His will, enlightened, and strengthened (1:15ff). All these spiritual blessings (1:3) are reserved for those who submit to Jesus as the head and strive to follow the pattern of New Testament teaching. When we do, we have access to the greatest possible relationship in the whole universe! “To Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (3:21).

Categories
attitude positivity preaching Uncategorized

I Just Can’t Share Their Bitterness

Neal Pollard

I write this as someone who has spent his entire life in a preacher’s home. I grew up a preacher’s kid, whose dad was fired twice (once for baptizing a black woman and later for standing against the “New Hermeneutic”). I have been a full-time preacher for nearly thirty years myself. Now, my sons are devoting their lives full-time to preaching. To an extent, our family’s lives have revolved around preaching. Have there been hurts, disappointments, and occasions of mistreatment? Certainly. Of course, plumbers, lawyers, accountants, engineers, and builders will tell you the same. But, we work with Christians, who should know better? That’s true, but they are still humans constantly struggling with the battle of self. 

My dad has always spoken of the value and blessing of the church, even when dealing with personal hurts. He loves the Lord and His church. As we grew up in the home, he taught us to have a high esteem for the precious bride of Christ. In college, I had one teacher who especially counseled us to look at the church–and the people who make it up–with hopeful, optimistic eyes. We generally find what we are looking for. If we are looking for injustices, offenses, and disappointments, we’ll see an endless supply of it whether we’re looking at elders, deacons, long-time members, or new or weak Christians. If we can view the foibles of others with patience, compassion, and empathy, we are likely to help each other grow and transform. We will definitely steer away from an “us versus them” mentality.

If you are in full-time ministry for any length of time, you will have some stories to tell. Some will be full of joy and excitement. Share these generously. They will encourage and edify. Some will be unbelievable, but not in a good way. Use wisdom and discretion about how, who and if you tell those. What are we hoping to accomplish by such sharing?

Preaching is not lucrative business. It’s not paradise on earth. It’s not easy and not everyone can (or should) do it. But, it’s the greatest work in the world! It constantly impacts eternity in seen and unseen ways, in a way that perhaps nothing else can match. There will be some lumps and bumps. Ask Paul (2 Cor. 11:23ff). But, listen to Paul, too. In prison, he wrote of rejoicing about preaching despite its various pitfalls (Phil. 1:14-24). Some seem bitter about how they have been treated in preaching, and I hope they can work through it. But, I love this life so much, and I just can’t share their bitterness!

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Our staff introducing themselves to the 2019 Future Preachers Training Campers

Categories
faith faithfulness Uncategorized

Where Is Your Faith?

Neal Pollard.

How many household conversations begin, “Where is my?” Women leave purses in restaurants, men leave their wallets in the other pants pocket, and kids are apt to leave just about anything anywhere. How many vacations begin with the family wondering where some vital item is, fearing that it is sitting at home and not packed in the suitcases?

The disciples had just heard Jesus deliver some powerful lessons (Luke 8:10- 21) and now they were heading across the lake from Galilee to the country of the Gerasenes. En route, while Jesus slept, a fierce windstorm descends and rocks their little boat. In a panic, they awaken Jesus, pleading, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (Luke 8:24). Jesus calms the storm and subsequently their fears, but He admonishes them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:26).

That is a fair question. They had just heard the Master teacher doing His usual, masterful job (Luke 7:22-28, 31-36; etc.) and seen Him do some incredible miracles (Luke 7:1-10; 11-15; etc.). Between disembarking and the present distress, where did their faith go? The question Jesus asked His disciples is a fair question for each of us today. “Where is your faith?”

IS IT LOST (Luke 18:1ff)? Jesus positively teaches a parable about this in His story about the widow and the unjust judge. The woman was persistent and the judge, who feared neither God nor man, granted her petition due to her tenacious pursuit. Jesus makes application by asking, “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). It is possible for any one of us to lose our faith. The parable of the sower and the soils shows that people can lose their faith as a consequence of both good times and bad times (cf. Luke 8:11ff). It is equally tragic to see people lose their faith just a few steps into their spiritual journey, several miles down the road, or especially near the end of the road!

 IS IT HIDDEN (Luke 8:16)? Jesus demonstrates how ludicrous a view hidden faith is from heaven’s vantage point by illustrating it this way: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed” (Luke 8:16a). His point is that light is not doing its job when it is covered, and our faith is not doing its job when it is covered. There will be many settings throughout life when being a Christian and standing up for the Lord will not be popular, admired, or congratulated. What will we do with our faith in such circumstances?

IS IT MISPLACED (Luke 18:9ff)? Everybody puts their trust in someone or some thing. The Bible says that people trust in their own power and might (Psalm 44:6), their wealth and riches (Psalm 49:6), their national leaders (Psalm 146:3), their own hearts (Proverbs 28:26), their idols (Isaiah 42:17), mankind (Jeremiah 17:5), their own achievements (Jeremiah 48:7), or their physical beauty (Ezekiel 16:15). Many of these attributes can serve us in properly placing our faith in God, but far too many are resting all they are or hope to be on those rather than God. In Luke 18:9, Jesus speaks a parable in warning against those who “trust in themselves.” Despite a culture that preaches the preeminent idea of “believing in yourself,” God makes that subservient to trusting in Him.

IS IT VISIBLE (Luke 7:9)? A centurion whose servant was dying was humble, devoted and perceptive in his approach to Jesus, pleading with Him to heal that dear one for him. Jesus marveled aloud, “I have not found such great faith, even in Israel!” The Centurion did not have to wear a badge or button that said, “I believe in the Lord.” People are watching us every day, our speech, decisions, attitudes, actions, and reactions. While it is nice when someone asks, “Are you a Christian?,” how much better for them not to have to ask?

So, “Where is your faith?”

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The 2019 Bear Valley Bible Institute graduating class

Categories
church church (nature) church of Christ Uncategorized

“It Shall Stand Forever”

Neal Pollard

Kathy and I visited the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France, in February of 2006. It is an ornate, historic building. It dates to the 1100s, surviving the threats of many wars including World War I and World War II. But, it has been dilapidating for some time. Earlier today, a fire inside the spire caused it and one of its towers to collapse. Now, officials are saying that the whole frame is burning and will not survive. Whether or not they rebuild this Catholic Church building, this 900 year edifice will be gone.

There are buildings that have been around millennia before New Testament Days on most of the continents. If they continue until the Second Coming of Christ, they will cease to exist that day (2 Pet. 3:10). King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream over 500 years before Christ, and God helped Daniel understand its meaning (Dan. 2:28). The colossal figure he saw in that dream was a vision about the coming Kingdom of Christ. Daniel says, “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever” (Dan. 2:44). 

A careful study of unfolding history reveals this particular kingdom to be the church of our Lord, a Kingdom Jesus said would be established during the lifetime of some of His disciples (Mat. 16:28). It would come with power (Mark 9:1), a promise Jesus reiterates in Acts 1:8-11. That power came by way of the Holy Spirit’s coming upon the apostles on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Through this means, the Lord’s church was established in Jerusalem that day (Acts 2:37-47). The Roman Empire, which ruled the earth that day, eventually collapsed. No nation or empire can rival the spiritual Kingdom of Christ. His church will stand forever (Heb. 12:28). Nothing can overtake or overpower it (Mat. 16:18). 

Assaults against the church have been ongoing for twenty centuries. At times, it has been invisible to recorded history, but it continues to stand. Her members have been assaulted many times throughout the centuries. Property has been destroyed. Possessions have been taken. Lives have been lost. But, still she stands! This Kingdom shall stand forever! A Divine promise encircles it. This confidence is fire proof! 

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Notre Dame Cathedral before today’s fire