Categories
Christian living Christianity identity profession

I Am Not A Preacher

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We don’t know that much about the life of Christ between the ages of twelve and thirty, but many of us have this image of Jesus in our minds doing the work of a carpenter with His father, Joseph. 

One Hebrew scholar, by the name of James Fleming, makes the argument the word “carpenter” in Mark 6:4 and Matthew 13:56, could actually be a bad translation of the Greek word “Tekton.” Fleming points out that the homes in Nazareth were largely made of Stone, not wood. We also know that the Herod at the time, Antipas, spent a great deal of energy making the city of Sepphoris (Zippori) his “Jewel of Galilee” by giving it a total makeover. This developing city was located only three miles away from the hometown of our Lord. 

There was a rock quarry half way between Nazareth and Sepphoris where Jospeh, and perhaps Jesus, could have spent their time cutting stones for the Herod’s great project. An undertaking of this size would have likely employed all the surrounding builders, including those in Nazareth. Of course, Jospeh and Jesus working as stonemasons is pure speculation.

 Scripture doesn’t give us a detailed account of Jesus’ childhood, but Luke 2:52 tells us that He, “…grew in favor with God and men.” This passage indicates that Jesus was well liked by those who knew Him growing up, but when you compare this verse with Matthew 13:57, that “favor with man” isn’t there anymore. Matthew records, “And they took offense at Him.”

 In both Matthew and Marks account of Jesus’ returning to His hometown, the locals ask the question, “Is this not the son of a carpenter?” After Christ is questioned, He doesn’t perform any great miracle for all to see, but He heals a few of their sick. He doesn’t try to argue with them, but He goes through the town teaching. The gospels don’t tell us exactly what He was teaching, but there’s a simple lesson here for all of us. 

Don’t be a carpenter. 

Jesus lost favor with many when He broke out of their social mold and when He did things they weren’t accepting of. People no longer liked Him when He also began teaching things they weren’t used to hearing. The identity of Jesus was not wrapped up in the job He was trained to do, He was and is much more than that. If you’re a follower of Christ, your identity is not your profession. 

Jesus is not the son of a carpenter, He’s the Son of God. He’s given us a new identity, and we should never cheapen who we are by seeing ourselves as doctors, engineers, truck drivers, preachers, teachers, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers. We’re Christians. 

Even when He lost some positive popularity, Jesus looked for those who were willing to be healed and willing to hear. This is exactly what should be filling our time as well. Who do you know that needs to be spiritually healed by Jesus? Who do you know that needs to hear the wonderful soul-saving truth about the real Identity of Jesus? 

I’m a Christian— not a preacher. 

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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
attitude destiny future

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

It’s something they never tell you in the romantic movie. The ending of the storyline so full of twists and turns, where he and she might not have ended up together but seemed destined to be together, is so happy and perfect. Both are all smiles, with stars in their eyes, when we see “The End” and the credits roll.

They never tell you what happens after the fairy tale wedding or the long-awaited kiss. He refuses to ask directions as they fade into the sunset. They argue over where to eat that romantic dinner. He speaks without thinking and says something thoughtless, followed by tense silence. 

I am not critiquing one of the sacrosanct principles of romantic movies and books. Happy endings can be a great escape from reality and a feel good experience. Yet, when we hold it up as the unqualified expectation for our own lives, we set ourselves up for trouble. Social media is rife with posts and pictures which can perpetuate the fiction that the people we friend and follow are constantly living out “happily ever after.” Life is always grand, and success and satisfaction is the constant. 

Don’t misunderstand. So much of what we experience in life is shaped by attitude. Being positive can help us negotiate those hairpin curves in the road of life. But, coping through positivity is different from allowing disappointment to make us disenchanted with failing to meet the unrealistic expectation that every problem and adversity can be wrapped up into a pretty, neat package with a frilly bow on top. 

It’s quite the balancing act, isn’t it? Scripture teaches to think on healthy, beneficial things come what may (Phil. 4:8). Or, as Solomon puts it, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). Yet, Job (14:1) and Solomon (Ecc. 2:23) do not sugarcoat the reality that life is often painful, grievous, and full of trouble both day and night. 

May I offer some encouragement?

  • To the newlyweds, neither of you is perfect and there is no way you can always agree and get along without mutual compromise and effort. You will have so many great days, but there will be some mountains to climb and valleys you must pass through. No couple out there is breezing through married life. Turning to one another (and God) rather than on one another when marriage is hard will forge your bond come what may (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • To the new parents, though that baby looks perfect and angelic, he or she will introduce demands, needs, concerns, and challenges you never knew existed before. Each developmental stage will be accompanied by incredible highs and lows. As you look into the faces of your children, you will be looking at eternity and knowing the weight of your decisions and leadership. But, savor those little ordinary moments. You are placing puzzle pieces that will one day become your children’s picture of their childhood. How you handled the hard times will be at least as important as how you handled the fun times (Prov. 22:6). 
  • To the new Christian, it is right for you to relish the feeling of relief and joy over being forgiven and cleansed from sins. The burden of guilt has been lifted. You are experiencing something in Christ that you never knew existed. But, there will be difficult days. The devil lurks (1 Pet. 5:8). Selfish desires can derail (Jas. 1:13-15). Suffering for your faith should be expected (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 14:22), but by hanging on your eternal destiny is better than you can imagine. Along the journey, you will grow, mature, and develop into someone better and stronger as Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20). 
  • To the Christian who publicly repents, you had no idea how much support, love, and encouragement you were going to receive. You feel the relief of forgiveness and restored hope. There’s clarity and purpose where there had been confusion and distraction. Things are better now (cf. Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9), but the battles and temptations that led you away are still there. You will still have to face the consequences of bad choices, but you will not regret turning to God and your spiritual family for help. This is the first step of your rededication. Keep walking and never stop (Mat. 7:13-14; 1 Th. 2:12).

There are so many other phases and circumstances deserving the same kind of encouragement. The bottom line for each is the same. When viewed with heavenly eyes, each of us is staring at the ultimate happy ending. Even as our exterior deteriorates, our inner man is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). Our momentary difficulties will give way to incomparable glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18).  The best is yet to come (2 Cor. 5). But, between now and then, we all have to negotiate bumps in the road. That’s OK. Keep following Christ on this narrow road and the “ever after” will transcend your greatest hopes (Mat. 16:24ff). 

Categories
discipleship

Discipleship

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

We are supposed to be disciples. Discipleship is a mark of a healthy church. If we want to be true disciples, we must simply love God and we’ll know what it means to be disciples. Be a disciple. Discipleship is good. 

You’ve heard these statements before. They go along the same lines as, “We need to love God,” or, “We need to be godly,” or, “We need to be good Christians.” These are all true statements, but – at best – are greatly impractical and – at worst – are greatly discouraging. Ambiguous statements with no specific instruction will never accomplish anything. 

So, what is a disciple? The word used in the New Testament is μαθητής (mathetes). It describes someone who “engages in learning through instruction from another” and “who is rather constantly associated with someone who has a pedagogical reputation or particular set of views” (BDAG 609). 

A disciple is someone who passionately pursues something or someone in a specific subject field. A passing interest in pulmonology does not make one a pulmonologist. We know this. A passing interest in Christianity does not make one a Christian. 

If we’re there every time the doors are open but our Bible knowledge is lacking, we are not disciples. If we claim the title “Christian” but the foundation of our faith is a political viewpoint, we are not disciples. 

A disciple passionately studies. A disciple is an exegete. Disciples passionately incorporate and live out the teachings of scripture, which they get from their study. If we are as enthusiastic about our faith as we are about our hobbies, we are disciples. If we want to be called disciples, we must also be considered dedicated students of the word and of the One. 

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Categories
Holy Spirit love love of God Romans

ROMANS 5:5 AND THE LOVE OF GOD

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Romans 5.5 is a verse that I know I’ve read many times, but never paid attention to. 

It says, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

This whole section of Scripture is awesome, but this verse really caught my attention. How is the love of God poured into our hearts? How do we experience this? Is it a feeling or understanding? Are we given a sense of calm knowing we are saved? 

Context reveals that Jesus showed this love by dying for those who hated Him. God’s love is experienced through Jesus’ death (Romans 5.6, 8). So in that sense, we are able to access God through the sacrifice Jesus made with the Spirit who was given to us. 

However, it does seem that the love mentioned in verse five is something a little different. 

Firstly, it isn’t the only thing we have with God. We also have peace with God and grace (Romans 5.1, 2). The context of this chapter and much of the next is about the benefits of salvation. 

Secondly, the love of God seems to be pretty directly applied. The word “poured” in 5.5 is ἐκχέω (encheo), which means, “to cause to fully experience” (BDAG 312). It’s also a perfect passive verb, which means it was poured in the past and continues to be poured; God was the one doing the pouring. 

The destination of this love is our (that is, those who are saved) hearts. When we have been justified, and when we take pride in our trials because they develop endurance, proven character, and hope, God pours love into our hearts. 

Because of the multitude of “for”s and “therefore”s following this verse, I lean more towards the idea that this love is something we experience as a result of gaining rational confidence of our salvation through Christ. 

My goal in writing this article is not necessarily to explain Romans 5.5 – I do not pretend to know the answer – but to hopefully provoke thought and demonstrate the depth of scripture. I love these difficult passages, and hope that you will study them as well. 

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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
brotherly love love spiritual maturity

We Must Grow Up 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 

Sometimes our television plays to an “empty room.” People are present; they just are not paying attention. I suppose you could say the television just serves to offer “background noise” on those occasions. Today, an action-type show played on a broadcast network. A childhood favorite was playing. Though I might be accused of “hassling the Hoff,” I noted, as an adult, the show I enjoyed as a child was replete with terrible acting from the show’s star and the supporting cast. The only character that retained an air of sophistication was the car voiced by William Daniels. Even with KITT, though, it wasn’t that “he” had great lines, but a great accent. 

 

I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s words to the brethren of Corinth. 

 

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13.11 NASB)

 

I will explain this verse in its context before I make application of it. In the immediate context of Paul’s discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul was comparing their reliance on spiritual gifts such as tongue-speaking to being like a child. Love was the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12.31ff). The spiritual gifts would pass away. Love would be what would guide the church after the miraculous age had passed. Rather than quibble over who had the best spiritual gift, they needed to grow up and be motivated by love. 

 

Within the context of the epistle, though, Paul’s words in our text serves as a reminder to Christians that a failure to mature as we should, signifies a childish mind (1 Corinthians 14.20).  Only in one’s desire to sin is such a childish disposition a positive, since it’s childlike innocence which epitomizes the ideal child of God (Matthew 18.3). Thus, we are innocent like children, but stay like adults in our thinking. 

 

This brings me back to Knight Rider. Why did the show make me cringe? I know some might accuse me of being quite capable of immaturity. Nevertheless, I am an adult now. I see things like plot holes. I can tell I am watching D-list actors. And the entire premise strains credulity. In the episode airing, Michael and KITT had gone to a South American country whose American advisor was imperiled by a coup begun during a volcanic eruption. They were responsible for safely extracting this advisor.  Naturally, they accomplished their task with little difficulty within the hour.

 

Now, let us bring it on home where it counts. How many Christians are easily swayed by the smooth words of a false teacher because he plays on those things appealing to an immature mind? How many base their convictions on how they feel instead of a “thus saith the Lord?” The Hebrews writer admonished his recipients to stop being milk-drinkers so that can tear into the solid food found in God’s Word (Hebrews 5.12-14).  That takes spending time in prayer and Bible study.

 

In closing, I remind you of what God said to Job when He finally granted the latter the audience he had requested: “Now gird up your loins like a man…” (Job 38.3; 40.7).  May we heed those words also and make those needed adjustments to become the Christian men and women God would have us be.
 

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Categories
angels apostasy grace temptation

The Angels’ Struggle (And Ours)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

We sometimes have a tendency to give up when we mess up spiritually. We’ll think, “Guess I blew it, there’s no point in trying now.” Guilt or frustration over the difficulty of living for God and falling short is a powerful Achilles Heel of ours. Paul describes our struggle with sin as combat with self (Romans 7). 

A Christian who is fighting to follow God is still going to sin at some point. We sometimes allow the loss of that battle to drag us into a pattern of sinning solely because we’ve become discouraged that we even allowed that sin to happen. 

I’d like to point out that we aren’t alone in that struggle. Consider Job 38.7: angels – who do not need faith because they live in the presence of God – were up close and personal to the creation of our incredible universe. They watched in awe as God fabricated the stars. They heard those stars sing, which means that they were amazed by the sheer power and majesty of what we can only hear as obscure signals. They were right there! 

Some of those same angels were caught up in sin (II Peter 2.4ff; Jude 6-9). Satan currently has followers who were at one time up close and personal to the Power behind our existence (Romans 12.7ff; Matthew 25:41). 

If an angel, a being who does not serve God based on a mere belief in His existence, but because they were originally created for the sole purpose of carrying out His will, and who are eyewitnesses to His existence and unlimited power, can be tempted to the extent that they are willing to abandon the presence of God and forfeit ever seeing His face again, who are we to think that our struggle is that defeating? 

God does not have a salvation plan for angelic beings (II Peter 2.4). When they breach their boundaries, that’s it. The moment they act outside of God’s will is the moment they forfeit the presence of God for eternity. 

We are lower than angels on the creation totem pole (Psalm 8.5), yet we have Jesus as a mediator defending us before God (I John 2.1) and constantly making us sinless in God’s eyes when we’re doing our best to live for Him (I John 1.7). We have a gift that angels do not enjoy: we get extra chances. As long as we are willing to wage war with our sinful desires, as long as we are striving to be like Him, and as long as we are trying to incorporate the word of God into our lives, we have grace. 

We’re stepping out of the concrete and into conjecture, but there is at least some evidence that lust (Genesis 6; II Peter 2; Jude 6-9) and perhaps tragedy (Matthew 18.10) are enough to make an angel forfeit their home. Again, this is pure conjecture but it has, at the very least, some scriptural evidence to suggest legitimacy. 

When we sin, we need to take a step back and get some perspective. We must not brush off sin as being inconsequential, but we also must avoid allowing a mistake to send us into a dysfunctional pattern just because we think, “I’ve blown it, there’s no point in trying now” or, “This struggle is too great for me.” If angels aren’t immune, why on earth would we think that we are supposed to be? 

The beauty of Christianity is found in God’s grace. It is understandable, seeing how some have abused the subject, to want to avoid the topic altogether. How many, though, have found themselves trapped in sin because they did not understand or believe in the power of God’s continual forgiveness?

Understanding what we have when we make a concerted effort to follow God is of the highest importance. We will sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are liar and there is no truth in us (I John 1.8). When we do sin, let’s remember that not only can we have forgiveness if we’re walking in light, we’re not especially awful just because we find ourselves falling short. If even God’s angels can be tempted to the point of leaving His presence forever, so can we who have not seen His face. And let that cause us to seek His face with even more enthusiasm than before! 

I Corinthians 10.13

II Peter 3.9

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Categories
Christian living humility

What It Means To Be A Christian

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

The life of a true Christian is filled with change. We learn where we are weak and try to be better. It’s kind of like a never-ending home improvement project. There will always be areas of our spiritual walk with God that could be better. Because this is the case, many religious books, sermons and Gospel meetings are created around a theme that will help us to grow. In the Church there is a plethora of information to help us in our Christianity, but I want to focus on the basics and answer a vital question. What does it mean to be a Christian?
I want to answer this question with a passage in Scripture that we may not immediately think of. We may think of 1 Timothy 1:5 or 2 Peter 1:5-7, which are great verses, but I’d like to suggest that Jesus in Luke 18:15-17 gives us the bottom line of Christianity.
It reads, “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
Jesus teaches the importance of humility. You want to enter the Kingdom of God? Have an attitude of humility. He uses the example of children, and Luke even uses the Greek word for infant. These are very young kids and babies that are being brought to Jesus. So He uses this as a moment to teach a valuable lesson.
Babies show their humility in their inability to provide for themselves. Every child that is born is completely dependent on its parents and has a wholehearted trust in them to provide what they need.
What does it mean to be a Christian? It means being humble enough to admit that we need God. It means we trust in God rather than our own “power.”
Humility plays an important role in every aspect of Christianity. It helps with showing love to others, it helps us subject ourselves to God’s Word, it helps us treat others the way we want to be treated, it helps us accept the hard topics that Scripture contains, and the list goes on and on.
Do you want to be a part of the Kingdom? Make humility an everyday practice. And that is what it means to be a Christian.
#MyToesHurt

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Back before Carl was a giant. #littlebabycarl

Categories
attitude faith God God (nature) power

Some Exciting Gifts From God   

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

There’s a magic moment when a child discovers that two different paint colors combined can create an entirely different color. The possibilities seem endless! Red and yellow paints are dumped on a blank canvas and mixed to create a bright orange. That same excitement, on a whole new level, can be experienced when we discover that God mixed with “human nature” creates something far better and more beautiful. God is often the ingredient missing from our potential success as well as those goals we sometimes attempt to make alone. Consider the impact He has on our common life struggles…

1. When God is mixed with our sin – He creates forgiveness (Romans 4:7)

2. When God is mixed with our finances – He creates a healthy view of money and how to use it (Proverbs 13:11)

3. When God is mixed with our relationships – He creates a stronger and more      fulfilling bond (Eph. 4:2-3)

4. When you mix God with uncertainty – He creates certainty (Romans 8:28)

5. When you include God in difficult decisions – you find direction (Prov. 3:5-6)

6. When you mix God with depression/anxiety – you discover some relief (1 Peter 5:6-7)

7. When you include God in your work – you will get the best results (1 Cor. 2:9)

8. Add God to any fear – you not only get courage, but a total removal of fear (1  John 4:18)

In short, the more yellow you add to red, the brighter the orange. The more God you add to your life, the brighter the future becomes. If you desire a vibrant life, then God is what needs to saturate your mind, heart, and decisions.

When God is in my mind my mind becomes more holy.

When God finds His way into my heart, my heart develops more purity.

No meaningful and lasting change can be accomplished by sheer willpower and determination— if those two things are not mixed with an all-powerful God.

dale and tyler