Vicarious Faith

Vicarious Faith

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

David Chang

Joshua, at the end of his life in Joshua chapter 24, summons all the tribes of Israel and their leaders to Shechem. He reminds them of their journey as a nation so far, what all God has done for them since the days of their forefathers, and everything God has done for them from Egypt until that present moment. Starting in verse 14, Joshua calls the people to fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in faithfulness and to put away the gods beyond the River and of Egypt. 

Joshua issues a challenge to the people, that if it’s evil in their eyes to serve the Lord, to choose that day whom they will serve—whether the gods beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites whose land they conquered. As for Joshua and his house, they will serve the Lord. Israel answers, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” (v. 17a). They review what they have seen and what they know that God did for them since bringing them out of Egypt. Joshua continues to challenge their response. They respond the same way: “No, but we will serve the Lord” (v. 21). Joshua once again warns them, that by renewing this covenant, they are becoming witnesses against themselves. The words they say are weighty; it is nothing to play around with. The moment they choose God, that decision comes with accountability and responsibilities. Israel answers, “We are witnesses” (v. 22). 

This scene of unity as the entire nation of Israel come together to answer their calling to serve God is incredible. Just imagining all of those people coming together to renew their covenant relationship with God is a chilling image, in a good way. However, the other side of this story, the part that makes this scene a tragic one, is the reality of their eventual disobedience and apostasy. Just a single page after this part of the Bible, we know what begins to take place in Judges. Israel’s continual downfall as they constantly forget their God and stray towards other pagan gods of the peoples they failed to drive out as God commanded them.

Reading this interaction between Joshua and the people of God and knowing what takes place shortly after makes us wonder: how many people in that crowd that day were truly zealous for God?

We do not do faith alone; Christianity was designed by God to be something that we share with each other and with those around us. However, it is also a double-edged sword in that we as participants of this faith journey can mistaken other’s zeal for our own. When things are going well and you see work being done, it is easy for our emotions to get heightened. And there is a sense in which we need to promote that kind of synergy among the members of the Body in all that we do. However, boil it down to the core. At the end of the day, we are accountable for what we do individually. As difficult as it is, we have to constantly challenge ourselves and ask: “Is my faith truly mine? Is this zeal for God that I feel truly my zeal for Him—or is it a momentary passion that I feel vicariously through others?”

It is a dangerous thing, living vicariously through others. Passion in the hands of others does not do much good to us in the long run. The same goes for faith. I wonder just how many people among the number that was present there when the covenant was renewed were truly zealous for God. And I wonder how many in that number was just saying the right things, looking the right way, and just went along with the flow. Feeling the passion and the emotions around them in that moment, mistaking it for their own zeal for God. Living vicariously through others is dangerous for obvious reasons, but it is harmful in that it is deceiving. The deception is that the congregation’s overarching atmosphere, culture, and zeal can replace one’s own true desire for God. Personal zeal for God requires real work, effort, and endurance.

Let us never become a people who lives vicariously through others’ faith. Rather, let us individually be producers and workers for the kingdom, that when we do come together corporately like tonight, the fruits we bear are hundred-fold. 

Remaining faithful during times of adversity

Remaining faithful during times of adversity

 Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Ohssel Tyson

For the past four years I have been going though what I believe to be the toughest battle I have ever had to face in my life with our warrior princess Kiyomie’s medical condition. God blessed me with my greatest desire and greatest fear as a father; which was to have my daughter; and one of my babies getting sick and me not being able to do anything to make them better.

We decided that my wife would come to the United States in October of 2017 after our homeland was devastated by category five Hurricane Maria. It was a difficult but necessary decision because Kerssel was pregnant and the prenatal care she needed wasn’t available post-hurricane. I joined my wife in February of 2018 and we had flights booked to return home in April of 2018. Before traveling I had set up everything in Kiki’s nursery which was also my office where I did my studies; her crib was right next to my desk, I had so many plans for my baby girl and was ready to bring her home.

What we had no idea of is that we were heading right into another hurricane; one of a different nature. Kiki suffered severe brain injury during birth and this changed our entire life: we could not return home, we had to leave my six year old son Éjiké and our families behind in Dominica which ached our hearts daily. The life we knew was basically over. We had our family’s support but were here all alone, in a foreign land with no one close to come help during the toughest period of our life.

We both had to resign from our jobs. We were forced to sell everything we owned in order to survive here, we went from being one hundred percent independent to one hundred percent dependant on others, we had to seek assistance to pay our monthly bills and purchase the most basic of necessities for our children and ourselves– diapers, wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, bath soap and everything else. We were unable to care for ourselves the way we used to, unable to provide for our children, only going to the doctor or dentist if we were very ill, not purchasing new clothing or undergarments even though we desperately needed them.

Through so many sleepless nights, emergency room visits and hospital stays we managed to keep surviving, by the grace of God. It is hard and lonely but we have no choice other than continuing to be resilient and keep focused on Kiki getting better. (We’ve had so many nights that we got little to no sleep that right now we consider a night of 4 hours of sleep a good night rest)

We didn’t think that our life could have gotten any worse but then on August 10th 2020 we got the dreadful news that my wife’s mom had suddenly passed at only 56 years old. From that day our lives was under a dark cloud; well, that’s how it felt. Mom, as we all called her, was our main pillar of support; our greatest cheer leader and prayer warrior; she sent messages every single day to both Kerssel and I telling us how strong we are and great parents we are and that Kiki will be healed and to remain faithful. That day in August took so much away from us, after mom’s passing everyday just felt like we were going through motions, like robots, just floating around under that dark cloud.

Mrs. Dawn Pitcock had been working with Kiki since she was discharged from the NICU. She and her family became a friend and remained in close contact even after Kiki aged out of the First Steps program. She had mentioned her church and asked if we’d like to visit, but we never did then. We were still under this dark cloud. Sometime after mom’s passing Dawn asked whether we would mind if she and elders from her church come by to visit and pray with us.

Russell, Dana and Dawn came one Sunday after service, we conversed for a while, we prayed and we cried; that blessed Sunday afternoon is one I will never forget as it felt like that first ray of sunshine piercing through the dark clouds. We started studying and getting a better understanding of God’s word with the assistance of Russell, Neal and Greg. Our faith started to grow stronger and we began feeling better, our lives felt a little less cloudy day by day. We started attending Sunday service when we were

able to, Kiki’s condition determines whether we can but we kept studying via zoom.

We had discussed baptism a few times but I didn’t feel fully ready until April 6th, 2021, on that day, I called Neal and told him that we were ready. When we got to church building there were several other members of our Leman Avenue family there to support us. Kerssel and I were baptized on that day and man that felt good, it was a new life in every aspect.

Yes we are still going through tribulations. Kiki still has tons of medical complications and has a long way to go. Yes we still seek assistance to cover every single expense that we have. BUT, because our faith in God, and ourselves have grown, our bond with God is getting stronger and our understanding of God’s word and love for us and his purpose for allowing us to go through what we are going through; we are able to better appreciate our situation. God have been right there with us all along, he continues to supply our every need; he has, housed us, fed us, and clothed us physically and spiritually.

In our lives on a daily basis we encounter troubles, problems, adversity; no matter how small or complex they are, they always pose a challenge physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually.

In these moments we feel weak, we feel defeated and are forced to face problems to great for us to handle; so we turn our attention to God and begin questioning him, WHY? Why am I going through this? Why me? What Lord can I do to solve this problem? During these challenges we are unable to continue our tasks like normal; so we stop, evaluate our situation, ask God for wisdom, obey his word, have faith and trust him to bring the help that we need.

The apostle James had a response to adversity which has helped me through my own troubles.

James 1:2-6

 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you are involved in various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But you must let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to everyone generously without a rebuke, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith, without any doubts, for the one who has doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

When going through these challenging times in life the best resort is to turn to Jesus, I can guarantee without any doubt that no matter what the problem is, you will find guidance to a solution within the word of God. Apply the appropriate scripture, faith and the very best effort you can, to every adversity you face and you will be victorious.

In conclusion I say to you, through every adversity, trial and tribulation seek God for he is always waiting to guide us through our troubles and ultimately draw us closer to him.

Have faith no matter how small it is: Faith in God, faith in yourself, faith that God is greater than your problem, faith that God is helping you through the adversity, faith that you will overcome.

Nurture your faith and watch your faith grow. Mathew 17:20 tells us, “…Because of your lack of faith. I tell all of you with certainty, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

If you can move a mountain with faith the size of a mustard seed, can you imagine the magnitude of power you would possess with faith the size of a tennis ball or basketball or greater?

I’ll close with some words and verses I recite whenever I’m having a moment of weakness during a challenge and the effect that they have on me is miraculous, I recited them right before coming up here; they are:

I believe that God is with me.
I believe that God is helping me. I believe that God is guiding me.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Thank you for listening, thank you for being our family when we most needed one, thank you for the support given to my family in every single way.

When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

When the Wolf and the Lamb Eat Together

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Isaiah 65.17-25 is interesting. Some have mistakenly concluded that it is a prophecy of Christ’s “millennial kingdom” because it resembles passages in John’s revelation. However, we might agree that it refers to the millennium only if others use that term to describe the entire period between Jesus Christ’s two advents. 

Contextually, this prophecy appears alongside others concerning the church or the kingdom. Paul summarizes the blessings God promised Isaiah in this passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1.3 NASB1995). 

And we’ve been in these final days since Pentecost (Acts 2.16-21). As a result, we should not be surprised by its longevity (i.e., more than two millennia and counting) because God metaphorically predicted that its cohorts would live a long time (Isaiah 65.20). Furthermore, this extension is advantageous because it provides opportunities for those who need to repent (cf. 2 Peter 3.9). 

But what does Isaiah 65:25 mean by the wolf eating with the lamb? Because wolves and lambs are predators and prey, people assume it must refer to the millennial kingdom. Otherwise, the wolves would be the ones devouring the lambs. So, we can’t discuss anything current. Nonetheless, they fail to remember that there once existed a time when wolves and lambs ate together. They did so on the ark that God instructed Noah to build. The ark served as God’s refuge during His wrath. 

Today, the church serves as that refuge. Even when wolves are nearby, lambs will still be able to eat within that place of safety. Some people believe God’s providence protects His children, so they have no fear despite living in a wolf-infested world. Others argue that because God changes the obedient’s nature through the Gospel, the wolves and lambs can eat together within the church because their personalities have changed. They are brand-new creatures (2 Corinthians 5.17). All of these interpretations are correct, but there is an intriguing corollary. 

Who was the primary apostle to the Gentiles? Peter’s sermon converted the first Gentiles (Acts 10.34ff), but the Lord chose to send Paul to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17). Jesus tore down the dividing wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2.13-15), allowing those like Paul to welcome the Gentiles into Zion (cf. Isaiah 62.1-3). However, what do we know about Paul’s history? Paul belonged to the Benjamite tribe. 

God allowed Israel to prophesy his sons’ futures as he lay dying (Genesis 49.1-27). According to Jacob, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf; In the morning he devours the prey, And in the evening he divides the spoil” (Genesis 49.27 NASB1995). Paul was thus a ravenous wolf whose conversion caused him to eat with the lambs (Acts 20.7). No longer a church persecutor content to put Christians to death for their crime of faith in Jesus, Paul became Christ’s ambassador to increase the flock of Christ. 

A true example of the wolf eating with the lamb is found only in God’s kingdom, the church. 

Dear Christian Teen,

Dear Christian Teen,

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Dear Christian Teen, 

Most of you have heard 1 Timothy 4:12, “let no one look down on your youthfulness,” at some point in your lives. But what about the second half of the verse? In I Timothy Paul has been instructing Timothy on how to deal with men like Alexander and Hymenaeus. These men had been blaspheming and teaching false doctrine. Paul clearly states that the goal of their instruction should be love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith (1:5).

Skipping down to chapter four, Paul tells Timothy that no one should look down on him because of his age. Timothy is charged to teach the gospel and handle the men that have been teaching false doctrine. To do so, he can’t let others’ view of him cause him to stop doing his job. When Paul says “youthfulness,” the original text uses a word that could be ascribed to someone as old as 30. Paul’s main point is that in “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” This is what Timothy should have been doing. Forget the age, forget what other men are saying, and LIVE as an example. Paul wanted Timothy to be a “tupos” or “type” that men can follow. Timothy could do nothing about his age, so his effectiveness was to be rooted in his example.

So, young Christians today, what can we do to be an example? There are five things we can do. First involves our speech. This is external. People can hear the way you talk in your everyday life. Make sure it is blameless and pure. Don’t give someone a reason to reject you because of how you speak in your private life. Second involves our conduct. Once again this is external. Having proper conduct is vital if people are to see you as something more than just a youth. Be a man/woman of God whether you’re being watched or not. Third involves love. This is more internal than external. This love is an agape love. Sacrifice for others at the expense of your own good. This also goes back to 1:5 “love from a pure heart.” Fourth involves faith. This is also internal. Work on your own faith. Build your own relationship with God. Last involves purity. Be pure in your relationships and in your life when no one else is around. Do these things as “an example (type) to those who believe.”

Paul continues on in verses 4:13ff to discuss other ways he can be an example: giving attention to the public reading of scripture, exhorting and teaching, and using his spiritual gift he had been given by the Holy Spirit. 

Paul wanted Timothy to be a living example. When these men were looking down on him for his age, Paul didn’t tell him to focus on his experience, but on the source. Focus on your own spiritual life, your own personal reading of God’s Word, your own prayer life. Don’t blame them or use them as an excuse. Be an example they can respect and follow. Show them what a true Christian looks like.

Timothy had a hard job on his hands, since he was facing false teachers and blasphemers that were tearing apart the church. He had to work and be the proper influence for the Christians there at Ephesus. As teens today, you also have a hard task ahead of you. Many in the church think that you don’t need to be working yet. God says otherwise. You can and should be an example for others to see. Each one of you has your own group of friends that only you can influence. So be the example. In your speech, in your conduct, in your love, your faith and your purity. Show them the truth, and never neglect your own Christianity.

The Commands Of Scripture

The Commands Of Scripture

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

In Romans 12:9-21, Paul reveals to us what a true Christian looks like. He gives a list of actions we should always strive to accomplish. This list is totally different from the message we hear from the world. The apostle tells us that as true Christians we: 

  • Have genuine love 
  • Hate evil 
  • Hold on to what is good 
  • Love one another 
  • Outdo each other in showing honor
  • Have zeal
  • Have a Fervent spirit 
  • Serve the Lord 
  • Rejoice in hope
  • Are patient in tribulation 
  • Pray constantly
  • Contribute to the Saints 
  • Are hospitable 
  • Bless our persecutors 
  • Do not curse our enemies 
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice 
  • Weep with those who weep 
  • Live in harmony 
  • Aren’t haughty 
  • Associate with the lowly 
  • Don’t think too much of ourselves
  • Don’t repay evil with evil 
  • Do what is honorable in the sight of everyone 
  • Live peaceable 
  • Don’t take revenge 
  • Care for our enemies 
  • Don’t let evil overcome us
  • Overcome evil with good

That’s a whole lot to remember. But if we love God, we will try our best to follow these commands. Christianity is practical because it gives us the best life on this earth and the one to come. 

We know what’s truly important. We have a purpose and we know how we are to act, speak and think. We know why we’re here on earth and we know where we are going if we are faithful to God’s word. This list in Romans 12 gives us practical tips on how to handle the situations that come up in life. We have the key to a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life. We follow the Bible because it is practical. It contains wisdom and knowledge that is found nowhere else on earth. It provides a map to salvation and it gives us the answers to life’s problems. 

The story is told of an old man who was wandering in the desert looking for water. He approached an old shack and on the porch area he found a water pump. 

Next to the water pump he saw a one gallon jug. A note on the jug said, “Use all the water to prime the pump.” The man’s instincts said to drink the water and not trust the pump. Nevertheless he poured the water into the pump and began pumping until an abundance of cool water came to the top. The Bible is like the note on that water jug. Sometimes the instructions contained in the Bible do not make sense to us, but it is always right. The commands given to us from God are practical. He knows what is best for His own creation. They help us in our decisions, and they teach us how to act and think. We can have confidence in knowing that our lives are based on the perfect commands of Scripture. 

A Holy Sacrifice

A Holy Sacrifice

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Romans 12:1 says, I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” What is a holy sacrifice? Holy means, “to be set apart.” It’s living free of moral filth and being devoted to God. A holy sacrifice is one who is devoted to the service of God. Matthew 6:33 says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” 

God’s agenda comes first. We are now used as an instrument of righteousness. Romans 6:13 says, “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” We should want to be useable in the hands of God! We should also look to accomplish that which is pleasing to God. 

Ephesians 5:6-10 says, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” Who are we trying to please? If we want to be a holy sacrifice we must be aiming to please God. 

People make sacrifices all the time, but think about something or someone you love. It’s easier to sacrifice for family. God is our family, so why do we not sacrifice for Him? If anyone is deserving of sacrifice, it’s God. I once had a pet squirrel when I was 11. My older brother Gary and I saved it from falling out of a tree. Every day I used an eye dropper to feed it milk and nurtured it into an adult. 

It would be with me during school, and at night I’d have to stay up super late feeding and caring for it. Stuart the squirrel was great, but to nurture him back to health and care for him took a lot of sacrifice on my part. But I was willing to do it. I loved that squirrel. 

Love makes sacrifice easier. How do you feel about living the Christian life? Do you feel like you are sacrificing other pleasures in order to live a life for God? How much does your sacrifice take from you? Be a holy sacrifice when others around you are unholy. Imitate Christ around your coworkers, your kids, your spouse, your friends. Be holy in your service to God and wholly sacrifice your life. 

Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For practitioners of Japan’s True Pure Land Buddhism, one desires to enter the pure land upon death. In so doing, he could bypass our corrupt world and enter the western paradise where he could quickly achieve nirvana. Conversely, True Pure Land Buddhism has a hellish alternative in which souls are tortured by oni (i.e., demons) until they are purged of their sins and can enter the Pure Land. No one desires torture. So, the Japanese would recite the nembutsu: “I call on the Amida Buddha.” In medieval Japan, practitioners of True Pure Land Buddhism would lay on their deathbeds holding on to a string as an added measure. That string led to a painting of Amida and his cohorts. As they looked longingly towards the picture, they hoped that their escaped soul would travel the line and enter the western paradise. 

It may be that upon reading the previous paragraph, you thought of the apostle Paul in ancient Athens. He told the men of Athens that he perceived them as superstitious, literally δεισιδαιμονεστέρους—“very fearful of gods” (Acts 17.22). As Japan is often called the home of eight million gods, with the Buddhas incorporated into the mix, it is easy to label the Japanese as superstitious. Yet, I note something different when I hear about this True Pure Land Buddhism. It would almost seem that True Pure Land Buddhism rubbed elbows with Christianity somewhere. It is conceivable since Pure Land Buddhism arose in India during the second century A.D. before making its way to east Asia. However, note two intriguing features of True Pure Land Buddhism reminding one of Christianity. 1) Calling on Amida’s name and 2) Looking to Amida for hope. 

Joel prophesied that those calling up the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2.32). Peter and Paul quote this verse from Joel’s prophecy regarding salvation within the New Covenant (Acts 2.21; Romans 10.13). So, there is most assuredly power in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter says there is “no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated). But calling on Jesus’ name is not like reciting a nembutsu. Paul shows us that we call upon the name of Jesus when our faith moves us to action. After seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul has been fasting and praying for several days. The prophet Ananias finds Paul in his misery and says, “ Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22.16 NASB1995). See then how Paul called on Jesus’ name. Paul submitted himself to baptism for the washing away of his sins. In so doing, Paul called on the name of Jesus. 

Do we not also look to Jesus to give hope? Well, we do not stare at an artist’s rendering of the Christ upon our deathbed. But we do look to Him in life as our hope. After citing many examples of those from whom we could find a worthy model of faithfulness, the Hebrews’ writer adds: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12.2-3). The KJV says we look to Jesus. Either way, our eyes are drawn to and become fixated upon Him. This hope we have in Jesus is an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6.19). 

It remains a challenge to preach the Gospel in those parts of the world where Buddhism has taken root. I’ve heard missionaries remark of the antagonism against Christianity within the Buddhist world. Yet, it seems strange that within at least one branch of Buddhism, there is a central figure who is something of a Messiah. Considering that so much of Buddhism asks you to find salvation from within yourself, there are at least some within that belief system who recognize the nature of the human condition is such that we must rely on the grace of someone greater. Therefore, even in hostile environments, may we endeavor to preach that the One willing and able to save is the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us tell the world to call upon and look to Jesus.

courtesy via Flickr

      

We Gotta Stop!

We Gotta Stop!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

If you’re reading this right now, it means you have access to electricity and internet. If you have access to those, you’re already familiar with the subject of this article. This specifically applies to Christians living in the United States, but I encourage those who don’t consider themselves religious to think about the following as well. There’s no other way to address this, so I apologize for having to write it.

“Let’s go Brandon” is everywhere: gas pumps, sporting events, social media posts, bumper stickers, etc. I thought it would die out by now, but it’s everywhere. I see it almost every day on gaming platforms, with many adopting some form of it as a username/handle. It’s become colloquial, used to “thank” the president for any less-than-ideal circumstance.

I am not a fan of our current president. If you drive, you know how much gas is right now. Afghanistan. The Russian ammo ban (and other anti-freedom measures). If you eat food, you’re already familiar with inflation’s impact on groceries. We could go on for a week, but this is a long-winded disclaimer and I need to get to the point.

No Christian should ever adopt the mentality behind the phrase at the beginning of the second paragraph. Besides the crass and hateful language it represents, it’s a sinful way to view our president. Christians are supposed to respect their government leaders (I Pt 2.17). In that passage it’s not a suggestion, it’s an order. The word τιμᾶτε (timate) is an imperative. It means “to show high regard for” someone (BDAG, τιμάω).

Paul wrote, “You should pray for rulers and for everyone who has authority. Pray for these leaders so we can lead a quiet and peaceful life…” (I Tim 2.2). Paul was under an emperor similar to our own president. God’s expectations for Christian behavior don’t change when the president is bad. We don’t have to like him, but we certainly have to respect him and pray for him.

We should not expect to live with God forever if we talk about the president the way so many others do. I get it – it’s hard. Politicization of the medical field under his administration has had a direct impact on my own quality of life. Praying for/respecting the president is not easy at all. But it wouldn’t have been easy for Christians under any of the Roman emperors in the first century, either. If they could do it, so can we. Please think about the serious impact our words have on where we spend eternity. Our first allegiance is to God. If He’s really our King, we’ll have respect for our president.

Image courtesy Flickr.
Showing Up When It Counts

Showing Up When It Counts

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

I recall watching the Atlanta Braves when they were the perennial cellar dwellers of the National League. The Braves’ games were broadcast on UHF station 17 out of Atlanta before the little independent television station went national via cable and satellite. In those days of the baby blue uniforms and small letter “a’s,” I watched stars like Dale Murphy, Rafael Ramirez, and Phil Niekro play the game of baseball on a TV with rabbit ears.  

Fast forward to 2021, and the Atlanta Braves have won the World Series. It is interesting to talk to younger fans who only know of above-average play in the last few decades. Such fans are blissfully ignorant of those days when you could count on the Braves to have more losses than wins. Yet, I noticed something about this championship year. If you look at the records of the LA Dodgers (106-56) and Houston Astros (95-67), both teams won more games during the season than the Atlanta Braves (88-73). This truth suggests that it is essential to prevail when it counts. In other words, the Braves showed up when they had to, which is why they are the national champions.  

There is something to be said of that in Christianity as well. Regarding this, Jesus gave a parable about two sons (Matthew 21.28-32). A father went and asked his first son to work in the vineyard. He refused. So, the father went to his second son. The second son said he would go and work but never showed up. In the interim, the first son regretted his answer and went to work in his father’s vineyard. Jesus ends the parable by asking who had been obedient. The crowd responded that the first son had obeyed. Jesus informed them that there would be sinners entering the kingdom of God in like manner before the religious elite.  

The religious leaders were like the second son. They gave lip service but never actually followed the Law of Moses, only their traditions. As a result, they did not show up when it counted. But the prostitutes and tax collectors, cognizant of their sins, showed up when Jesus extended His invitation (Matthew 11.28-30). So, while it is true that there is none righteous (Romans 3.10), we still note that there are people who we count on to show up despite their flaws. Ultimately, this is what matters.  

As the saying that we attribute to Benjamin Franklin goes: “Well done is better than well said.” But, of course, this idea was Biblical long before the famous Pennsylvanian put quill to paper. James reminds us to be doers of the Word, not just hearers (James 1.22). It is far too easy for us to blend in with other congregants. “Worship, Fellowship, Retreat, and Repeat.” Now, I will be the first to say that worship service attendance indicates spiritual health, but there is a vineyard out there in which we must labor. The Father asks us to go out and work in the vineyard. What is our response? We will have fulfilled our required tasks even if we have previously said no by our words or conduct but have shown up anyway. Better to be a latecomer than a no-show. Yes, we must show up when it counts. A gracious God will make up for a less-than-stellar record and proclaim us champions (cf. Matthew 25.24). 

 

Jeff Burroughs (1977) (via http://atlantabraves19701980.blogspot.com)

A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

IMG_1381

Dale Pollard

There are just too many voices in the world today muddying the waters when it comes to 21st century Christianity. In fact the term, “Christianity,” doesn’t mean much the average person. In fact, the average person will most likely have several friends who carry this title and they know based on their morals— they’re not really different. Sadly it’s a description that doesn’t describe much, other than an individual that believes in God. That’s really it! This word has been tragically stripped of what we understand to be the most rewarding life you could possibly live. There’s simply no higher calling, there is no greater purpose in life, and you just can’t beat the retirement plan. 

Now let’s do something to help the seeking world out. 

Let’s make it our priority to understand the church in such a way that we can simplify her mission and her origin. 

Here are two terms that will help:

  1. The term “restoration” may sound similar to “reformation”, but the two terms could not be more contrary to each other. Restoration is an attempt to return the church to the pattern we find in the New Testament, while reformation is a changing of what currently exists. It’s a modification or addition which creates something new entirely. The Old Testament is filled with the pleas of the prophets for the people to restore their relationships with God. 

    2.  The definition of the word “denomination” is evidence that restoration is not only possible, but needed. Denomination, in the religious world, describes a branch off of an  original. Any branch coming off of the New Testament church, is simply not it. 

Five Facts About The Lord’s Church 

  1. The New Testament church was established by Jesus, not Luther, Henry the 8th, Calvin, Smith, or Wesley
  2. The New Testament church was established in Jerusalem, not Oxford, London, or Amsterdam
  3. In New Testament times people were told to believe in Jesus, repent of their sins,  be baptized by a total immersion of water, and to live faithfully (Acts 2:38, 16:30-31, 2:16, Mark 16:15-16; Romans 6:1-4; Revelation 2:10) 
  4. Christians in the New Testament met on the first day of the week to partake in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7)
  5. The New Testament church was a united church, while denominationalism is, by its very nature, divided. 

If the church you are a part of can say the same, you can be confident that it is the church that Jesus established. If this is not what the church you are a part of teaches and practices, then perhaps this will be some information that will help you begin a life-changing search to find God’s will for your life.