Swords Into Plowshares 

Swords Into Plowshares 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

“And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” (Isaiah 2.4 NASB1995) 

Once upon a time, my family and I shared a condo in Hinesville, Georgia. It was 1989. Life in a condominium was…interesting. Aside from the paper-thin walls, strangers were coming and going at all hours. Unfortunately, some of those strangers were individuals proselytizing for their religious beliefs. One lazy Saturday, a couple knocked on my door and started talking to me, eventually directing my attention to Isaiah 2.4 and asking what I thought of it. 

I was only 14 then, and my knowledge of the Scriptures was still immature. However, a glance revealed it seemed too idyllic to be related to earth, so I responded with “heaven.” My visitors agreed that I was on the right track with my interpretation and explained how it referred to the Millennial Kingdom that Christ would establish on Earth one day. I politely listened but knew that their explanation, at the very least, did not match what my parents and teachers had shown me in the Bible. 

I’m an adult “of a certain age” in 2022, and I’ve had more time to study the Scriptures. Nonetheless, I wish I had known what I know now in 1989 so that I could have tried to persuade my solicitors where they went wrong in their understanding. My initial response had been partially incorrect. What God revealed to Isaiah was heavenly in origin but established on earth in the first century AD. Verse two gives an obvious hint by stating that the events of verse four will happen in the “last days.” 

The Holy Spirit descended on Peter and the other apostles on Pentecost, around 33 AD. They started preaching the first Gospel message. People wondered if Peter and his companions were inebriated, but Peter assured them that they had witnessed the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy about the end times (Acts 2.17-21; Joel 2.28-32). God was pouring out His Spirit on men, heralding the arrival of the end times, the final dispensation governed by Christ’s Covenant. 

On Pentecost, Peter used the keys entrusted to him by the Lord to unlock the kingdom God promised (Matthew 16.18-19; Daniel 2.44-45). The fact that it was the promised kingdom is also evident in Jesus’ statement in Mark 9.1. He stated that those to whom He spoke would be alive to witness the kingdom’s arrival with power (i.e., the Holy Spirit). Unless 2,000-year-olds are walking around, the kingdom has already arrived. 

However, take note of the end of Isaiah 2.2: “…all the nations will stream to it.” This statement refers to Abraham’s Messianic promise (Genesis 22.18). Through Abraham’s seed, God would bless the nations of the earth. So, we have Jacob or Israel through Abraham’s seed, and through Israel, we have Judah. David was born of Judah’s lineage, to whom God promised an heir to establish His kingdom, build a house for God’s name, and establish His throne forever (2 Samuel 7.12-13). 

God’s promise to Jehoiakim, a descendant of David, that none of his descendants would sit on David’s throne in perpetuity shows that this cannot refer to the same earthly throne on which David sat (Jeremiah 36.30-31). Indeed, no son of David would reign over Israel after their return from captivity. Descendants of Levi ruled the Hasmonean kingdom until the Romans conquered it about six decades before Christ’s birth. The Romans made Herod the Great, an Idumean who had married into the Hasmoneans, a vassal king over Judah. 

When Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king. Jesus informed Pilate that He was, but that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18.36-37). Instead, Jesus declared Himself to be the ruler of a spiritual kingdom whose subjects heeded His voice of truth. Jesus’ answer prompted Pilate to ask the age-old question, “What is truth?” (John 18.38) Before ascending to the Father, Jesus told His apostles to preach the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem, where they would wait until clothed with power from on high (Luke 24.44-49). Take note of the word “power” (24.49) and Jesus’ statement in Mark 9.1. 

So, the church is the kingdom. We could have determined this without reading these Scriptures by looking at Matthew 16.18-19, where Jesus uses the terms “church” and “kingdom” interchangeably. However, false beliefs about Christ’s kingdom and premillennialism seriously threaten generic Christendom. As we’ve seen, Jesus intended His followers to preach the Gospel to all nations, so He would also save Gentiles. In Acts 10, Peter converted a Gentile and his family. From that point forward, God’s kingdom included non-Jews.  

Previously, a barrier separated Jews and Gentiles. That wall was the Mosaic Law. In the second chapter of the epistle bearing their name, Paul explains to the Ephesian brethren that enmity existed while the wall stood. Jesus tore down that barrier, making Jews and Gentiles one in the body of Christ (Ephesians 2.11ff). Jesus brought peace through this act. Let us return to Isaiah 2.4. The prophecy’s poetic language points to a time when warring parties living under the auspices of one Judge would transform their weapons of war into peacetime tools. Despite being on Earth, it sounds like heaven because the church is a heavenly place (Ephesians 1.3). 

So, the church is this wondrous place where we turn swords into plowshares. The church has “neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free man, male nor female” because we are all one in Christ (Galatians 3.28). As a result, rather than fighting one another, we must focus our efforts on our common foe, the devil (Ephesians 6.10ff). 

Facing Fear With Christ

Facing Fear With Christ

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

When it comes to storms, people either love them or hate them. Personally I find storms to be relaxing. I love hearing the lighting and thunder rumble and shake the house. Some people are deathly afraid of storms and for good reason. If a storm is violent enough, it can end up costing millions of dollars in damage. 
Storms are a majestic show of God’s power. Did you know that a single bolt of lighting contains up to one billion volts of electricity? That’s enough electricity to power 56 houses for 24 hours straight…from a single strike! It can generate temperatures six times hotter than the surface of the sun. Storms are majestic, but also can be terrifying. 
I want to take a brief look at a well-known account in scripture. Matthew 14 is the account of Jesus walking on the water. Verse 24 says, “But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.”‭‭ This storm is so great that even experienced fishermen couldn’t handle it. 
Peter, James and John were fishermen by trade. They knew how handle storms, but this one was so great they couldn’t control the boat. Matthew tells us it was during the fourth watch which would’ve been from 3-6 AM., a massive storm in the middle of the night. And it was at this moment Jesus comes to the apostles walking on the water. 
What is their reaction? They believe Jesus to be a ghost or “evil spirit.” And honestly if I was in their position I’d be afraid, too. Verse 27 gives us three significant reminders. “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’”
“Take Courage” 

Jesus tells them to have courage in a scenario that many would be scared for their life in. 


“It is I” 

“ego emi.” This phrase reminds us of what God said to Moses: “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). Jesus says, “it is I”–the “I AM,” The all-powerful. 


Do not be afraid” 
He tells them not to fear. To suppress the natural reaction and to trust in the great I AM. The next time we encounter storms in our lives, take courage BECAUSE, The Great I AM, has got you in His hand. So don’t be afraid. Trust the Loving Savior to care for you. 

Blessings

Blessings

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

How does Jesus feel about us? He created us, became human, and let us kill Him so He could make a new deal with us (Heb. 9.15-17). Most disregard Him, many are outright hostile. How could He love us at all? Because we know how most view God, it’s easy to lump ourselves into the same group as the hostiles. 

Ephesians gives some awesome insight into how Jesus feels about his people. 

1.3 – He gave us spiritual blessings through His sacrifice. 
1.4 – He had us in mind before He even started creating things. 
1.5 – He intended to make us part of His family. 
1.6 – He gave us grace. 
1.7 – He died to give us freedom. 
1.7 – He gives us forgiveness. 
1.9 – He told us what He wants. 
1.11 – He is going to give us an inheritance.
1.11-14 – He knows His own, and He’s looking to get us back home. 

 He didn’t just do nice things for us, though. Here’s how He feels about it: 

1.5 – Love motivated Him. 
1.5 – He wanted to do it. 
1.7 – He’s generous with His grace. 
1.8 – He’s generous with His grace. 
1.9 – He wanted to do it. 

We don’t deserve Him, but He loves us to death. We let Him down, but He gives us grace. He’d have every right to be exasperated with His imperfect family, but He’s not. People get on our nerves and societies fall apart, but we have the best family on the planet. Remember whose you are when you’re discouraged. No one wants you more than He does! 

 

Giving To The Least, We Give The Most!

Giving To The Least, We Give The Most!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

He was eight years old when his parents divorced, leaving his mom with a total of eight children to take care of. The family needed financial help, so his mother contacted the church in the small town where they lived. The church provided them some assistance, and to show gratitude the woman and the children attended a few services. Soon, she took her family back to the denomination they were members of, but she had heard enough gospel preaching in that short period of time to become dissatisfied with the teaching she was now hearing. The preacher and an elder from that benevolent body of believers studied with and baptized the lady. Since this woman could not drive, different families from church would come and pick this large family up. This continued on. The boy and his siblings, nurtured in such an environment, were all influenced by gospel teaching and preaching. Many of them would also obey the gospel through time.

Then, he was a young husband and father, working for the Post Office, when he decided he wanted to attend a school of preaching and train to share the good news with others. Now, some decades later, he has spent years as a gospel preacher, professional counselor, missionary, preacher trainer, and professor. Not long ago, there was a vacancy in the pulpit of the church where he learned the gospel. The elders reached out to him and asked if he would consider taking the job. He did. Now, he is in the community preaching and teaching the lost and building up that body. Every soul he was won, every soul the countless men he has trained have won, and every one he has encouraged who has brought others to Jesus are all fruit to their account (cf. Phil. 4:17). 

The moral of this story is not to shame congregations into practicing the reactive “benevolence” they are solicited to provide by those “frequent fliers” who professionally panhandle. It is a reminder, though, that we all know people in our community who suffer losses and are in genuine need. God has always expected His people to be benevolent, individually and collectively. He tells the church at Galatia, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). James praises Christians as practitioners of pure religion who help those in need (Js. 1:27). Not everyone helped will obey the gospel, but when God’s people share the love of Jesus things like I’ve described will happen. Who knows how many will wind up on the Lord’s right side at the Judgment because we showed kindness and met needs, which opened people’s hearts to the gospel? Let’s find out! 

God’s “House-Law”

God’s “House-Law”

Wednesday’s Column: “Third’s Words”

Gary III

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

Tell Me About Grace

Tell Me About Grace

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

  1. Grace brings peace (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
  2. Grace gives us favor with God (Romans 3:24).
  3. Grace is the generous attitude God has towards His people (Ephesians 1:6).
  4. Grace brings salvation to sinful man (Titus 2:11).
  5. Grace teaches us how to live (Titus 2:11-12).
  6. Grace gives us a glimpse of God’s Character (John 1:16).
  7. Grace appeared in the flesh (Titus 2:11).
  8. Grace originated from God (Eph. 2:4-5).
  9. Grace is powerful (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  10. Grace helps put Heaven in view (Acts 15:11).
  11. Grace helps us be the salt of the earth (Acts 4:33).
  12. Grace is an attribute of Christ (John 1:14).
  13. Grace is an attribute of Christians (2 Corinthians 8:7).
  14. Grace puts the word “Christ” in Christian (John 1:17).
  15. Grace is a powerful motivator (Titus 2:13-14).
  16. Grace is a gift (that is often left unopened, Ephesians 2:8).
  17. Grace gives us hope (Romans 6:14).
  18. Grace shows us the love of God (Romans 5:8).
  19. Grace brings comfort (Hebrews 4:16).
  20. Grace is given to the humble (James 4:6).
  21. Grace gives us strength ( 2 Timothy 2:1).
 
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Election & Covid & Anxiety, Oh My! 

Election & Covid & Anxiety, Oh My! 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

I bet you’re probably sick hearing about two big topics right now so for the sake of this little article and your sanity— I won’t even mention them by name. Believe me, I wish my blog posting day didn’t fall on this particular Tuesday. I thought about avoiding any p*******l-related angles all together. The fact is, it’s a big deal and it’s probably what’s on your mind today. 

Well we better pray about it!

 I’m sure you’ve heard that in your congregation many times. Let’s clarify what that needs to look like in my life and in every God-fearing individual’s life. 

When we bring God a petitioning prayer concerning anything, large or little, let’s first remind ourselves of the sacred ingredients that make up an effective prayer. 

  1. Evaluate your spiritual life. The prayers of “righteous” men and women make an impact. James 5:16 
  2. God can’t be seen as one option. Think of the rascally child who, after receiving a “no” from his father, approaches his mother in secret seeking a “yes.” That child should receive a stern chat— perhaps a spanking? When we approach God, we must do so with His will above our wants. Sometimes the two line up! If they don’t, accept the answer and press on. 
  3. Saturate your petitions with praise and thankfulness. Though the virus remains active or the “wrong” man takes the office— The Almighty deserves your praise and thankful heart. After all, He reigns with perfection and justice on His throne (Psalm 97:1). God has given us the cure to a horrible sickness that not even all the scientists in the world could cure (Ephesians 2:8). Nothing that happens today or any day will ever change those things. We’ve only scratched the surface here, too. God deserves every bit of your praise and thankfulness— no matter what. 
  4. Don’t miss the big picture when you pray. Our minds have a way of fooling us into thinking that current events ARE the big picture. That’s just not true. What’s more important? The growth and faith of every member of His church. I can’t help but think of congregations that have been spiritually strengthened and grown— despite an earth shaking pandemic. What’s most important is not this country or nation, it’s His kingdom and that kingdom to come. 

Are you righteous? 

Please pray for this world and pray for His church. If there’s something keeping you from the righteousness of God, that’s far more urgent than anything else. Your faith is  what deserves your full attention. 

Let’s be a happy and hopeful people— let’s be those who practice righteousness. 

 
“Was Jesus Really A Carpenter?”

“Was Jesus Really A Carpenter?”

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

  • “Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, brother of James, Joses, and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us? And they took offense at Him. Then Jesus said ‘a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown among relatives and those of his household.” – Mark 6:4 
  • Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenters son?” – Matthew 13:54
  • Was Jesus a carpenter and were these fair questions to ask Him?

      Let’s examine FOUR quick factors:

 Factor 1 – LOCATION: Nazareth was located 3 miles from                Sepphoris which at the time was developing quickly as part of Herod   Antipas beautification project. It would eventually be known as “The               Jewel Of All Galilee.” Jesus would have witnessed and perhaps helped his father cut stone in the quarry that was half way between Nazareth and the developing city. 

 Factor 2DEMAND – In the days of Jesus there weren’t many trees in       the area, and there still aren’t many today. To try and make a living working with a material that wasn’t readily available or even used much would be difficult. 

Factor 3 LANGUAGE – “Tekton” simply means “builder” The Messiah                             was a handyman, and the spiritual connections in your mind may  already be forming. 

Factor 4 – SCRIPTURE – Luke 20:17ff – Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants, after Jesus is questioned about His authority in the  temple by the scribes/chief priests, He looks at them and says “The STONE the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?” quoting from Psalm 118. 

Again quoted by Peter as he defends himself in front of religious leaders in Acts 4 “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by  you the builders.” It was a reference to David’s lineage to the  Messiah and it would have been familiar to Jewish stone builders.  

So with this in mind, let’s revisit the questions asked by those in Jesus’ hometown

  1. Where did this man get this wisdom? 

A. Their perspective: “You’re the son of a common builder. He didn’t teach you these things, he  taught you to build.” 

B. The reality: It wasn’t wisdom from Joseph, it was His heavenly fathers wisdom.   But Joseph, no matter how talented he was in his craft, did not teach Him to build…

1. A ship that would carry christians safely into eternity, he may have taught Jesus to  work with stones, but he no idea that on a rock He’d build His church. 

2. He did not teach Him to build a home that would last for all eternity, but that’s       what  Jesus is building now! 

3. He didn’t teach Him to build a walkway that would bridge the gap of separation between God and man, but He did.

2. Where did He get these miraculous abilities?

A. Their perspective: “You’re the son of a common builder. You’re performing things with your hands that the hands of a common builder      can’t perform!”

B. The reality: Jesus is the master builder. The only one that could claim to build things out of the very stones and pieces of wood He spoke into    existence. 

What does all this mean? 

1. In the hands of the Master builder, you can be something better.

2. In the hands of the master builder, you can be somewhere better. 

3. If you’re broken, you can be fixed. If you’re not a child of God, your life is broken.

4. You can be something better than you are. Your imperfections can be made perfect through the blood of Christ. 

5. You can be somewhere better. You can be In good standing with the God above. You could be In a loving family bound for glory— the home built by God. 

“Soft Civil War”

“Soft Civil War”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

It is no secret that we are politically divided in this country. Larger cities are typically progressive, while the majority of a state’s rural populations are conservative. This has even dictated what kind of news we watch! If you watch CNN, you fit in with progressives. If you watch Fox News, you are most likely conservative. Both approach reality with their own highly specific bias in order to appeal to their respective audiences. As a result of this, we have entered into what is being called a “soft civil war.” Liberals speak with extreme hatred against conservatives. Conservatives speak with great hatred against liberals. It may be a soft civil war right now, but it would not take much at this point to become a full-fledged war.

As a church, we are a kingdom. Our king is Christ and the citizens of this kingdom are Christians. Sadly, the church is not immune to soft civil wars. In Philippians 4, Paul strongly rebukes Euodia and Syntyche because their argument was destroying the church. How easily we can become heated and hateful over matters of opinion! The way we handle differing opinions on matters not pertaining to salvation determines whether we will be unified as a church or whether – like Euodia and Syntyche – we will be a force for division. The greatest tragedy of the American Civil War was that families fought on opposing sides and killed one another. As the body of Christ, let us continue to handle our differences with godliness, love, and patience.

Can Others See the Christ In You?

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.