Join The Winning Team! Come Together And Give Selflessly.

Join The Winning Team! Come Together And Give Selflessly.

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

The 2022 college football season has gone, and the Georgia Bulldogs have repeated as national champions. Some argue that our national admiration of sports numbs us to the deterioration of our society. (Think ancient Rome and circuses and bloody spectacles.) However, there are also critics within the college football fan base who believe that the current method of crowning a national champion is unfair. The latter is more a matter of sour grapes. But when I consider paid college football players and transfer portals that foster a sense of entitlement among four- and five-star recruits, I find it difficult not to listen to some criticism. 

As Kirby Smart’s teams have improved over the years, so has their emphasis on teamwork and selflessness. They’ve made it a permanent part of their game strategy, and as a result, they consistently give it their all in most contests. ESPN sports pundits marveled at Kirby’s ability to make his team believe they were undervalued and disrespected despite being labeled the favorites. But, as the adage goes, the proof is in the pudding. Many athletes wanted to help pave the way to victory for their teammates. That is to say, rather than dwelling on how many times they had possession of the ball or how many big plays they had made, they celebrated the accomplishments of their teammates. Nolan Smith, a senior, is a prime example of this because his senior season was cut short due to an injury. After his stellar play on last year’s national championship team, he was eligible to enter the NFL draft. But he returned to Georgia for his senior year. However, his injury hasn’t stopped him from acting as a de facto coach for the rest of the team. Marvin Jones, Jr., one of Smith’s admirers, says he wants to fill the void Smith will leave after graduation. 

Some readers might assume I’m just trying to boast about “my” Georgia Bulldogs. Trust me; there’s more to it than that. An even more valuable group needs the same sense of teamwork and selflessness. Yes, I’m referring to the church. Like sports teams, the church requires teamwork and a selfless attitude to work together for the same mission. Paul writes that each church member contributes to its growth by fulfilling their role (Ephesians 4.16). One aspect of this role is encouraging and supporting each other (1 Thessalonians 5.11). Paul even went so far as to say that we should defer to our weaker brothers’ scruples to pursue peace and edification (Romans 14.19). While it is true that we will give an account of ourselves to God (Romans 14.12), we must focus on the “team.” Jesus loved the church so much that He gave His life for her (Ephesians 5.25). As a result, we are to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2.5ff). And the early church had its counterparts to people like Nolan Smith, most notably Andrew and Barnabas, two men about whom less is known but who undoubtedly had a significant impact on the early church. These two provided the selflessness and humility the church needs today by following the Lord’s call and putting aside their desires. 

Remember, we are not competing for a stylized black football atop a golden pedestal. Instead, we seek an imperishable crown (1 Corinthians 9.25). As a result, our devotion to the church must outweigh our enthusiasm for a football team on any autumn Saturday, especially in the South.  

Sources Consulted: 

Bender, Bill. “Entitlement at Georgia? Kirby Smart Keeps His Bulldogs Hungry and Focused on Winning Titles.” Entitlement at Georgia? Kirby Smart Keeps His Bulldogs Hungry and Focused on Winning Titles | Sporting News, 10 Jan. 2023, https://www.sportingnews.com/us/ncaa-football/news/georgia-kirby-smart-keeps-his-bulldogs-focused-winning-titles/kliyimqy9z6q6xu5dcg2rmz4

Riley, Connor. “How Injured Nolan Smith Continues to Help Georgia Football Win: ‘He’s Been a Huge Help to Everyone.’” DawgNation, 30 Dec. 2022, https://www.dawgnation.com/football/good-day-uga/georgia-football-nolan-smith-win/H6VP2U6SQJHL7AYDPXPK6HG4LI/

Brent Pollard
Spiritual Blessings

Spiritual Blessings

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Ephesians 1.3 says, “In Christ, God has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What does that mean? We hear “spiritual blessings” and might gloss over it as another Christianese phrase. Here’s a short list of what those spiritual blessings are.  

  • 1.4 — God chose us before Christ made the world. 
  • 1.4 — He chose us out of love to be his special people. 
  • 1.5 — He chose us to be his own children through Jesus Christ. 
  • 1.6 — God gives grace liberally.
  • 1.7 — We are free because of Jesus’s sacrifice. 
  • 1.7 — We have forgiveness because of God’s grace. 
  • 1.8-9 — God told us how we can get that grace. He didn’t set up a system that we would have to look super hard for, he made sure to preserve the information needed to find him.  
  • 1.10 — He is bringing the heavens and the earth together through Jesus. 
  • 1.12-13 — He made grace available to every country on earth, not just one group. 
  • 1.13-14 — He gave us his spirit as a downpayment on our reward. 

While we won’t fully appreciate these spiritual blessings until later (Paul says these riches are “too great to fully understand” in 3.8), we’re still extremely grateful that God has done so much to give us hope for eternal life. 

The Local Preacher (Part 2)

The Local Preacher (Part 2)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog 

Carl Pollard

Acts 20:18 says, “And when they came to him, he said to them ‘You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia…” The apostle Paul gave of his time to the church. If a preacher doesn’t give his time to the church, then he is doomed to fail the congregation. 

What is a preacher that does not give of himself? First he is selfish, and secondly he is not treating the Bride of Christ with the respect and care needed. Notice that Paul says “the whole time,” not just “most of the time” or “some of the time.” Paul was fully devoted to those in Ephesus. He was a man that was church-minded. This was a man that showed focus, and likewise we must show this focus and determination to make the church as strong as it can be. A proficient preacher proffers personal time for others. It takes a selfless person to give up time for the brethren. 

Paul uses the Greek word epistamai which means “to acquire information about something, know, be acquainted with” (BDAG 380). Paul knew for certain that the elders knew who he truly was. The same must be true for the preacher and the congregation. So what does this mean? This means as ministers we must be transparent. The elders should know what we are doing to help build and strengthen the church, and so should the members. 

When it is all boiled down we see that a minister, in the most simplistic of terms, is to be a servant. He should be a servant of others in the church, and most of all he should be a servant of God. If the preacher is not a servant and is not setting that example then how are the other members in the congregation supposed to look up to him and follow him? Will they be servants? Most likely they will follow the example of the minister. We, as ministers, in many cases set the standard. We can inspire, or we can harm the church. One thing we should never forget is that our influence and example can be some of our best tools. Are we excited about God’s word and work? We should be showing that and lighting the fires of every member in the church. 

Work Cited: 

Bauer, Walter. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, edited by Frederick W. Danker, et. al., Third Edition, U of Chicago Press, 2000. Logos Bible Software, 13.0, Faithlife Corp, 2022.

Live Like God

Live Like God

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

How does God expect us to treat each other as a church family? Look at Ephesians 4 and 5 —  

  • Always be humble and gentle (2). 
  • Be patient and accept each other with love (2). 
  • Be unified through God’s spirit (3-6). 
  • Use any talents and abilities to make the church stronger (11-12).
  • Work together as a church to reach a greater level of spiritual maturity (13-16). 
  • Avoid living like the world, because they can’t have the life God gives (17-24). 
  • Avoid telling lies, and always be truthful with our Christian family (25).
  • Avoid getting too angry, because it gives satan a way to defeat us (26-27). 
  • Avoid stealing, instead work for what we need and share with those who need it (28).  
  • Avoid cursing and hateful speech, instead encourage people (σαπρος means rotten speech) because we can make God sad with our speech (29-30). 
  • Avoid being bitter, angry, or mad, don’t raise your voice when mad, or say things that hurt other people, and don’t do anything evil (31). 
  • Be kind and loving to each other, and forgive each other just like God forgives us (32). 
The Local Preacher (Part One)

The Local Preacher (Part One)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

When taking a look at the book of Acts, many insights can be found about the church. From the Lord’s supper to the appointing of elders, there are many things that can be learned about the Lord’s Church and how it should act. Today there are far too many churches that have left and strayed away from the original design. Since we have one Bible, there should be one church. Out of the many things that can be learned from Acts, one of the most prominent aspects seen is the local preacher in a congregation and how he should behave. 

Today when we look in the denominational world, we see the preachers as a sort of leader in the church. The names given to preachers can sometimes be misleading. But the preacher has a very significant job, and hopefully by the end of this article series we will see that the minister is not too different from the member of the body. He is one that proclaims the word. His main job is to be an example and one who can take the word of God and turn it into something that God’s people can learn, and then apply to their christian walks. By looking at the examples given in Acts about the local preacher, we are able to answer quite a few questions. 

Probably the chapter that contains the majority of these insights is chapter 20, specifically verses 17 through 38. These articles will be an in depth study on this section of Acts, and how it applies to a preacher in a local congregation. 

Acts 20:17, “Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.” Notice that Paul met with the Elders of the church at Ephesus. The word for elder here is the word presbuteros, and we know that this is in reference to those who held the office of elders, and were not just older men. We see this in 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 1:6ff. 

To be a successful local preacher it is vital to talk to, and build a relationship with the elders of the congregation. Elders play an extremely vital role in churches, and to be an effective minister we must make sure that there is a healthy relationship between the elders and the preacher. Paul set the example, and now we follow what he has set. It makes sense. The elders are the leaders of the congregation and if the preacher is leading in a way other than what the elders have asked then how will the members react? The preacher must be one that uplifts and submits to the authority of the eldership. Paul was a great man. He had given up so much for the gospel yet even he submits himself under the elders. God knew what He was doing when He designed the church, so it is no wonder that many denominations fall away from the original design, and then run into many issues. 

The local preacher is a member, therefore he must submit to the oversight and leadership of the elders. 

Loving Our Christian Family (1 John, Part 13)

Loving Our Christian Family (1 John, Part 13)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Love, Pt. 2

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the king who came from God should also love everyone who belongs to God. When we love God and practice what he commanded, that’s how we know we love his family, too. We prove that we love God when we do what he’s commanded, and those commands aren’t difficult to live out. 

If you’re a part of God’s family, you’ve already beaten the world. Our faith is how we’ve won — if you believe that Jesus is God’s son, you’ve won in our spiritual battle against the world! 

One Of The Bible’s Most Beautiful Metaphors

One Of The Bible’s Most Beautiful Metaphors

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The second half of the Ephesian letter is addressed to showing how the redeemed walk in Christ. That cannot be divorced from the Christian’s function within the body of Christ, the church. It has often rightly been observed that Paul, in this epistle, is exalting the church of the Christ. It is valuable to God and to us because (1) It is the body of Christ, His Son (1:22-23; 4:4), (2) It is His means of reconciling all people together (2:16), (3) It makes us members of His household (2:19-22), (4) It is the means through which He shows His manifold wisdom and eternal purpose (3:9-11), (5) It is the means through which He receives glory (3:20-21), and (6) It is where and how God intends for us to use our talents and abilities to grow individually and collectively (4:11-16). Added to that list is what Paul says in what we call Ephesians 5:22-33. Paul makes it clear that the material he covers in this text illustrates a profound mystery; what he is saying “refers to Christ and the church” (32). Therefore, whatever else we take away from this text as inspired guidelines for marriage–which it is–we must understand that the church is the bride and Christ is the groom. When we see God’s binding legislation on the husband and wife in this text, we must remind ourselves that it illustrates the relationship between Christ and the church. Paul repeatedly gives this reminder (23, 25,27,29, 30,32). But, it’s not exclusively about that, as Paul concludes, “However, let each of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (33). In other words, Paul is saying, “Even though my underlying point is about Christ’s love for the church and the church’s need to submit to His authority, apply this to the marriage relationship!” 

This illustration is about submission (22-24). The command here builds on the command previous to it, in Ephesians 5:21, that being filled with the Spirit is fulfilled by “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” That is more generally about each member of the church. But, in a marriage between Christians, there would also be this mutual submission. Yet, in a specific way, God commands the wife to submit to the headship of her husband. Paul speaks “of submission involving recognition of an ordered structure… of the entity to whom/which appropriate respect is shown” (BDAG 1042). Louw and Nida add that it means “to bring something under the firm control of someone” (475). Kittel tells us that in the middle voice (i.e., the one commanded acting upon himself/herself) this is voluntary submission, but it is according to a divinely willed order (1159). The wife places herself under the leadership of her husband in a way that shows that she respect him (33). God commands this because, as previous commands in this letter, it does not come naturally or easily. It requires self-discipline and effort. The close the loop on the metaphor, Paul says, “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (24). This is neither vague nor unclear, though it is difficult. 

This illustration is about sacrificial love (25-30). The command here complements the one Paul gives to the wife. The husband is commanded to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”  (25). The specific “love” mentioned here is not erotic, familial, or companionship centered. It is the highest form of love, “to have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard—‘to love, to regard with affection, loving concern, love” (Louw-Nida 292-293). This is the love used to describe why God gave His Son (John 3:16). Likewise, Paul here is saying that what husbands are called to show their wives is what prompted Jesus to lay down His life on the cross. Picture the intensity, the fierce devotion, the selfless care involved in that (as you read 5:26-27)! But that active interest also leads the husband, in love, to nourish and cherish her (29) as carefully as one acts to preserve self (28). Paul sharpens the focus of husbands on the sacrificial love Christ heaps on the church, and that is the bar God sets for the husband in the marriage. A husband is to be driven by concern, care, and genuine interest for the needs of his wife! Her greatest need is spiritual, so he will never abdicate the role of spiritual leadership. He will lovingly exercise it. 

This illustration is about severing (31). When the old saying goes, “Marriage takes three,” it does not mean the husband, his wife, and a parent. In fact, a prerequisite of forming a marriage presupposes what Paul explicitly states here: “Therefore a man shall leave his father & mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh” (31). Did you know that this is one of the first commands in the whole Bible? Paul quotes Genesis 2:24)? Jesus reiterates it in His teaching to restore marriage to its original state (Mat. 19:5; Mk. 10:7). Suffice it to say, this is a foundational principle. Just as God does not want any outside influences to interfere in the church’s relationship to Christ, He does not want any undue influences upon the marriage relationship. That includes the parents of the bride and/or groom! The legislation is spoken to the husband, but it is applicable to the wife. It is also a warning to the parents whose children leave their home and form their new home. While this does not mean total isolation and desertion of responsibilities to parents, whom we must always honor (6:3), it does mean that the relationship changes. The married couple are not under the rule of parents. They leave that relationship and form a new one, beautifully described as a “one flesh” relationship. 

This metaphor is to help the church at Ephesus understand their relationship to Christ. But, let’s not miss the bottom line application, either. “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (32-33). 

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. 

A Door In The Sky & The Trumpet Of His Voice 

A Door In The Sky & The Trumpet Of His Voice 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near.

Revelation 1.3 

To prepare the mind for the door and the trumpet of chapter 4, let’s review the Revelator’s response. 

John Is Literally Paralyzed By Fear  

“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid.I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”  1.17

The Trumpet Of His Voice 

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet..” 1.10 

After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” 4.1 

Let’s take a second to appreciate this window into the heavenly realm. These precious details should make you hunger for more. 

Let’s Speculate For A Moment 

Roman cornu found at Pompeii, Public domain

While the “trumpet” is used metaphorically, there’s a particular kind of trumpet that John may have been thinking of. It’s called the Roman Cornu. 

This brass signal trumpet was around nine feet long, curved into a “G” shape, and supported by a crossbar. Recently, two of these horns were found by archeologists in the ruins of Pompeii. 

These trumpets were used to direct Roman troops on the Roman battlefield. One military strategist by the name Vegetius said, 

“The rules (given by blowing the horn) must be punctually observed in all exercises and reviews so that the soldiers may be ready to obey them in action without hesitation according to the general’s orders either to charge or halt, to pursue the enemy or to retire.”

A trumpet that could be heard over the din of battle? That had to be loud. 

Click hear to listen to a short example of a perfect replica of a Cornu horn being blown. It’s loud, exciting, and terrifying. 

That’ll raise the hair on your neck. 

Traveling Through The Door In The Sky 

The voice of the Lord was like that of trumpet, and it was calling John to come through a door in the sky (4.1). 

We read that John was in the Spirit in Revelation 1.10, but something else seems to be going on here. This is a new experience and even with the help of Inspiration, it’s difficult to describe in a  limited human language. 

Did John’s body travel through the door as well? That’s anybody’s guess and while on earth— a concrete answer is impossible to find. 

Paul hardly even tried to describe his journey into the spiritual world as descriptive terms don’t seem to do it justice (2 Cor. 12.1-4). 

The Meaning Of The Door 

Was it a portal? Did it have hinges and a knocker? Was it floating? 

Before the imagination runs wild, let’s look at a couple of the practical points. 

  1. The door, while both symbolic and physical in some respects, represents perspective. John is stranded on an island, but God gives him another vantage point. Seeing things from a spiritual high place can help reorient ourselves. How does God see our lives? What does the church look like from up there? That’s what Revelation 1-3 is all about. 
  2. There’s a plan being worked out behind the veil of eternity. Just like Job suffered without knowing the details (Job 1), we can take comfort in the fact that things down here always go according to His plan. 

While the details aren’t as colorful as we would like them to be, here’s 3 important facts He would want us to remember. 

  1. There’s definitely a way into heaven. 
  2. God’s the only one who can open that door. 
  3. We should focus on preparing our souls to step across that final threshold. 

If you couldn’t confidentially walk into His throne room right now, that should be your number one concern. 

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”

Ephesians 3.12 

WHY STAY MARRIED?

WHY STAY MARRIED?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Caitlin Flanagan wrote an article in TIME magazine entitled, “Why Marriage Matters.”  She begins by saying, “Buffeted by affairs and ennui, the intact, two-parent family is under assault. What America needs to get over its commitment issues. (Hint: it isn’t love)” (7/13/09, p. 45).  What was so fascinating about the article was that, whether sociologists, feminists, domestic policy-makers, or other experts, they all came to the groundbreaking conclusion that children are healthier, more successful, and more productive who come from intact, two-parent homes.  Flanagan kept returning to that conclusion, even as high profile cases of infidelity were offered to show how the guilty were selfishly putting their own ideals and needs about what their families truly needed.

While I believe that it is possible for a marriage to grow more romantic, satisfying, and enjoyable each and every day of one’s married life, such is a tangible benefit of the hard work and effort invested in marriage.  It is neither automatic nor an entitlement.  It is not to be “persevered” or patronized only so long as I am having a good time, get my way, or reap the “rewards” of it as I, subjectively, decide I should.  No doubt, God created marriage to provide companionship and suitable help (Gen. 2:18ff) and a legitimate sexual outlet (1 Cor. 7:1ff).  It is enriching and even thrilling to look back over years of partnership and see in one’s spouse the depth of intimacy built by shared time and experience.  God certainly depicts a loving, close relationship in marriage as the ideal toward which to be striven (Song of Solomon, Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).  However, first and last, marriage is a lifelong commitment, an ongoing fulfillment of a vow made to and before God Himself, and a relationship that can be severed with God’s approval only under extreme circumstances.

Flanagan had so much good to say about marital partners considering how vital their staying married means to raising well-adjusted, optimally-functioning children.  She hits the nail on the head regarding the deep-seated, lasting negative effects of divorce upon families and, ultimately, society.  Yet, while it may only be a matter of semantics, I disagree with her premise.  Staying married is about love.  It is about knowing how to love, God’s way, and intentionally, intensely, and indefinitely, nurturing and growing that love in the marriage.  Love involves duty, but it is so much more than that.  It is an act of the will more than a flutter of the heart. Yet, its payoff for marriage gives a man and a woman a lifelong glimmer of light that burns brighter even as the lights of our own lives gradually dim.  Let us love our spouses with biblical love and watch the seismic effects for good upon the home, the church, and the culture!