What You Owe Your Leader

What You Owe Your Leader

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

The election is over – or is it? Some states are still counting ballots as of this writing. Nevertheless, it doesn’t change our responsibility to those God’s Providence has placed into leadership over us. One needs to remember several things about government. First, God “changes the times and the periods; He removes kings and appoints kings….” (Daniel 2.21 NASB). As Nebuchadnezzar testified, “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and He grants it to whomever He wishes” (Daniel 4.17 NASB). Second, God gave them the authority to punish the evildoer (Romans 13.1-7). Thus, they have a heavenly mandate. Third, we must give them what they are due: taxes (Matthew 22.15-22). Fourth, we must lift their names to the Heavenly Father (1 Timothy 2.1-3). Finally, we must give them honor (1 Peter 2.17). 

In addition to these five principles, Solomon suggests ways to interact with those who would rule over us wisely. I will present them in their order of appearance in the book of Proverbs. 

Never put a leader in a bad light; doing so would be detrimental to both of you. While we have a constitutional right to criticize because the First Amendment protects it, that doesn’t mean we have to or should.  

“The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully” (Proverbs 14.35 NASB). 

This reminder holds more weight for someone who works directly for the leader, but it’s still a principle to which we should all adhere. A leader can make our lives difficult, whether his reasoning is justified or motivated by vanity. Of course, we can address such issues at the ballot box, but in the meantime, we must act prudently. 

Don’t be a “yes-man.” When we addressed leaders last week, we included advice on “yes-men.” Indeed, a leader should not surround himself with such sycophants. But we should not try to appease our leaders by becoming the “yes-men” that the Bible condemns. 

“Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and one who speaks right is loved” (Proverbs 16.13 NASB). 

While taking care not to contradict the first point above, we should still righteously speak when asked. A leader who is worth his salt appreciates a truthful constituent.  

Leaders prefer those who can articulate their morals. The idea is that a leader will discover in you a deserving individual to offer advice when he needs it. 

“One who loves purity of heart and whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend” (Proverbs 22.11 NASB). 

Set yourself apart with your skills. In the years following the upheaval of the Civil War, African Americans continued to confront discrimination and repression, making progress toward their goals challenging. As a result, different perspectives on the way forward emerged. As a result of one such way of thinking, NAACP founder W.E.B. Dubois established an organization to promote the advancement of African Americans. Alternatively, Booker T. Washington opened the Tuskegee Institute to appeal to a competing viewpoint among members within the black community. 

Washington believed that if blacks possessed a necessary skill that made them an indispensable part of the community, prejudiced whites in the South would accept them as peers, even if reluctantly. I’m not here to argue which of these men was correct, but I will say that Solomon would have likely supported the latter. Solomon saw one’s trade as a way to distinguish himself and attract the attention of kings. 

“Do you see a person skilled in his work? He will stand before kings; He will not stand before obscure people” (Proverbs 22.29 NASB). 

The best way to get the attention of a captain of industry or the President of the United States is to develop a skill to make your presence necessary. It will prevent you from living an ordinary life. 

Exercise restraint when in their presence. Sitting down to dine with a world leader would be exciting, especially if you eat at their expense. However, you may make a terrible impression if you are not self-disciplined. I understand that it is unlikely that any of us will be dining with the king, but we might get an invite from our boss. The principle is the same.  

“When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you, And put a knife to your throat if you are a person of great appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for it is deceptive food” (Proverbs 23.1-3 NASB). 

I read a legend (as Snopes refers to it) about an employer who conducted job interviews over dinner. This employer evaluated applicants on whether they added salt to food without tasting it to determine if it was necessary. The reasoning is that it shows impulsiveness and a failure to analyze data before deciding. Furthermore, it is impolite to your host because it implies that you do not trust his dining establishment preferences. 

The bottom line is that whether a king or a boss, no one likes someone who will run up expense accounts and exercise no self-control. 

Be humble. Solomon’s advice was undoubtedly the source of our Lord’s future warning in Luke 14.7-11 against seeking the chief seats. If your host wishes to seat someone else in your chair, you will be embarrassed. So instead, find a secluded spot and wait for the host to invite you to the guest of honor table. 

“Do not boast in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the same place as great people; For it is better that it be said to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have seen” (Proverbs 25.6-7 NASB). 

The reason that leaders like the humble are because they are typically better team players. The humble also learn from their mistakes. And best of all, the humble lead by example. As the Chinese say, “Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.”  

Be Persistent. Some commentators believe that Jesus was thinking of our last proverb when He gave the parable of the Unjust Judge in Luke 18.1-8. At least, brother Burton Coffman noted that in the 1901 American Standard Version, the translators felt they could substitute the word judge for the word ruler in Proverbs 25.15.  

“Through patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks bone” (NASB).  

It would be impolite to refer to the woman about whom Jesus spoke as a nag, but she did so tire the unjust judge with her numerous inquiries that the judge eventually tipped the scales of justice in her favor. We think of using violence to persuade others, but the truth is that pleading with them can be just as effective. When we require our elected officials’ assistance, anger is not an appealing method of obtaining it. It is preferable to use a gentle tongue to break their bones through persistent questioning and insistence that they hear our plight. 

I chose these Scriptures because they all dealt with subjects who had dealings with the king or ruler. However, I believe we can see how they apply to other relationships in which one person is of a lower station than the other. Remember what another wise man said to my grandfather Pollard years ago about our newly elected leaders: “Democrat or Republican, I still have to go to work.” Indeed, we all have a responsibility to those who exercise authority over us, and we can also treat them properly to endear ourselves to them.   

Of One the Lord Has Made the Race

Of One the Lord Has Made the Race

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 John Moody McCaleb was a missionary in Japan for the better part of his life. He moved to the island nation during the Meiji era, in which Japan was sprinting to catch up to the technology and emulate the political philosophy of the West. The war-weary pacifist, David Lipscomb, strongly influenced McCaleb. (I would dare say that it did not take much to sway him since his father, a Union soldier, was shot and killed by a fellow Union soldier as he was crossing a stream since he did not hear the latter’s order to halt. 1)

 Hence, when Japan became an Imperial state in its early Showa era, McCaleb’s pacifistic ideology put him at odds with his adopted home. He was sent “home” to the United States in October of 1941, just a couple of months before the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Since his expulsion, McCaleb’s house, which survived the tumultuous world war, has become a museum. A contemporary caretaker of the museum noted that McCaleb never flew an American or Japanese flag in front of his residence, stating “my true nationality is the kingdom of heaven.” 2

 Perhaps, it should not surprise us that the first stanza of a hymn penned by McCaleb reads as follows: “Of one the Lord has made the race, Through one has come the fall; Where sin has gone must go His grace: The gospel is for all.” Yes, this pioneering American missionary of the Restoration Movement wrote one of the most beloved hymns highlighting the Great Commission (cf. Matthew 28:19-20), The Gospel Is for All.

 I wished to share this to drive home one point. McCaleb failed to see cultural distinctions as “racial” in nature. McCaleb understood as Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17.26-27: “and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (NASB)” Indeed, we are of one race, the human race.

 When we look for the genesis of our divisions in God’s Word, we read Genesis 11 and the account of the Tower of Babel. Within that chapter, humanity, united, sought to use its solidarity to rebel against God. God couldn’t allow that for, because thus united, He observed, “Behold, they are one people, and they all have the same language. And this is what they began to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6 NASB). And so, God divided us by giving us different languages.

 Someone might scoff that vocabulary is not an insurmountable barrier since we learn the tongues of others today. First, it is not as if there were primers to teach one another the new languages existing initially after the Tower of Babel. Second, thus motivated to disperse, they went on to develop cultures independent of one another centered on those communication divisions. They intermarried those of their lingual group who had developed customs different from other lingual groups. It was a positive feedback loop.

 Might I humbly suggest that this remains the source of our societal ills today when it comes to poorly labeled “race relations,” since we are only one race? We have different cultures and customs. Language is not an insurmountable obstacle because we know the syllabaries and alphabets of those speaking different languages from ourselves. With this knowledge, we take the Gospel to every creature.

 But if we want to know what causes a man to kneel on the neck of a subdued man because he has more melanin in his skin, it is not a “racial problem.” It is a sin problem. And even though we all like to think that those resembling ourselves are free of such biases, it is something against which we all must carefully guard our hearts, whether we possess little or much melanin.

 Each of us is created in the image of God and must seek to treat one another as we desire to be treated (Matthew 7.12). Please keep this in mind whenever you see the “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” type of headlines the devil likes to employ to impede the progress of the Gospel in this world. He seeks to do so by convincing men that the essential things are the least important, but that the amount of melanin in one’s skin is of greater import.

REFERENCES

1 Walker, Wayne. “‘The Gospel Is For All.’” Hymnstudiesblog, WordPress.com, 6 Nov. 2008, hymnstudiesblog.wordpress.com/2008/11/06/quotthe-gospel-is-for-allquot/.

2 Ikuma, Koji. “The Old Missionary Museum of Zoshigaya, a Story of One of the Famous Christian Missionaries in Japan.” Unfamiliar Japan Tours, Unfamiliar Japan Tours.com, 19 Aug. 2016, uj-tours.com/missionary-house/.

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Abraham Lincoln’s Memorandum Of August 23, 1864

Abraham Lincoln’s Memorandum Of August 23, 1864

Neal Pollard

Somehow, I was unaware of the existence of a document which Abraham Lincoln drafted and had endorsed by every member of his cabinet, though unseen by them, and which remained sealed until November 11, 1864. These were not only dark times for the nation, embroiled in civil war for over three years at that point, but gloomy for the war-weary north which could not end the conflict against the greatly outmanned but tactically superior south. Politicians and citizens were unhappy with the perceived lack of success and progress at such high cost—the death and disabling of so many of her sons in the prime of their lives.  Lincoln detected that popular sentiment was such that he would not be reelected. Thus, he drafted his memo, which read, 

This morning, as for some days past, it seems exceedingly probable the this
Administration will not be reelected. Then it will be my duty to so cooperate
with the President-elect as to save the Union between the election and the
inauguration: as he will have secured his election on such ground that he
cannot possibly save it afterward (Coolidge 139). 

Lincoln seemed to think that the north had had enough of this war and would rather sue for peace and allow our sea to shining sea to be two nations rather than continue with such devastating effects a war they could see no end to. He appears dedicated to whatever he could do to preserve unity.

Of course, several things changed the course of Lincoln’s fate in his bid for reelection that swept him decidedly into office for a second term. There was the north’s victorious show in The Battle of Atlanta, Fremont’s withdrawal from candidacy, the Democrats internal division between the Copperheads—eager to end the war now—and the War Democrats, and the fact that no electoral votes were counted from the Confederate States of America.  But, Lincoln could not see the future. He was preparing for what he saw as the worst.

There is a well-worn battle taking place in our world. It is not technically between two factions. It might be framed as Christianity versus other world religions. It could be cast as New Testament Christianity versus so many individual denominations. Yet, internally, there are multiple stressors to the biblical unity Christ prayed and died for, too (John 17:20-21). 

Christians are soldiers (Eph. 6:10ff), but our battle is not with flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12).  Our war and weapons are not “of the flesh” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). All the same, many have grown weary of fighting the good fight and not a few feel as though we are fighting in a losing cause. The restoration ideal of doing Bible things in Bible ways seems archaic and impossible to growing numbers of saints. Some fight with equal vigor to preserve traditions not rooted in Scripture, and unnecessarily harm the great cause. 

As we strive at all costs to be true to the pattern of New Testament Christianity, let us do so going to whatever lengths we can to maintain unity wherever possible. Not for a moment does that mean sacrificing truth or compromising even one “thus says the Lord.” But it does mean embracing a spirit of love and protectiveness for the precious Bride of Christ, the church. That involves loving and working with those who are the members of it. 

Ultimately, the Lord’s cause will prevail. His victory is as assured as every other divine promise. We must be striving on His side to share in that. For now, we cannot give up the fight! Let’s cooperate wherever and however we can, standing unitedly on the foundation of Christ and His will. The rest (which is most of it), we will leave to our Great Commander In Chief!

Works Cited:
Coolidge, Louis A. American Statesman Ulysses S. Grant (New York: Chelsea House, 1983).

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What To Do When Faced With A Sinking Ship

What To Do When Faced With A Sinking Ship

Neal Pollard

The ship is breaking apart. The timbers of civility. Crack! The planks of morality. Splinter!  The mast of critical thinking. Pop! As we hope to stay afloat, we cannot help but feel growing apprehension over the current state of our society. It’s not a matter of preserving or plastering over a past. It’s a matter of preserving peace in the present, but only if that means God’s people are serious about sharing the only possible remedy–Jesus! Yet, as it increasingly seems our country is ratcheted by prejudice, hatred, division, and rancor, we see the tranquility and calm from so many quarters threatened with the dark storms of violence and uncertainty.

In Acts 27, Paul was with 275 other passengers on a boat bound for Rome from Caesarea, and its captain decided to test the Mediterranean Sea at a turbulent time. A violent storm, known as Euraquilo, caught the ship and ultimately battered it to pieces. It must have been an apprehensive time for the passengers and crew. Luke says the wind was violent, the ship was driven, the sun and moon didn’t appear for days, violently storm-tossed, they incurred damage and loss, and that all hope of their being saved was gradually abandoned. I cannot imagine the helpless, vulnerable feeling they must have felt. At least not literally.

It would be easy to let our national unrest and storminess tempt us to act irrationally (like some on Paul’s ship were tempted) or to give in to fear. But, Paul did five things we should do as we try to respond to the current turbulence.

  • He listened to God (Acts 27:23-24). Nobody else had a better or equal solution to their dire problem. The only way to be saved was to listen to God. Paul sought to persuade the people of this. In the ruckus and tumultuous noise, listen harder to God’s Word! It’s an anchor in stormy waters.
  • He believed God’s Word (Acts 27:25). It’s one thing to comprehend something, but quite another to put your trust in it. What God promised must have seemed quite far-fetched, that this way would save everyone. But, Paul didn’t waver. He said, “I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told” (25). We are surrounded by people who need to witness our faith. As many as are persuaded will escape a shipwreck of faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19).
  • He encouraged hope (Acts 27:21-26). Despite the foolishness of their leaders, these people were given a message of hope. Paul says, “Keep up your courage!” (22,25). Despite the frightfulness of the moment, Paul offered a possible escape. Right now, you and I are uniquely positioned to give the only true hope available. It’s like an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19)!
  • He warned the disobedient (Acts 27:31-32). There were those trying to break from God’s Word and will and do things another way. They were trying to take matters into their own hands. Paul spoke up against this! Such was defiance against the divine plan. What a message for us, who justify their sins rather than repent of them. We need to keep the message of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come before people (Acts 24:25).
  • He prayed faithfully (Acts 27:35). In this ordeal, Paul was a public example of prayer. Read every epistle of Paul’s and you’ll see his faithfulness in and dependency upon prayer. He appealed to the God he knew was the only hope for salvation. How much are we praying about the turmoil in our country (and world)? How much do those around us believe that we are dependent upon God?

Instead of focusing on the frightful winds currently blowing, let’s focus on the One who can calm the storm. Let’s get others to join us in that focus. Whatever happens to our nation, we must save as many souls as possible!

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COMING TOGETHER

COMING TOGETHER

Neal Pollard
For twelve years, I lived in the eye of Civil War History. Not only were many battles fought in almost every community neighboring Mechanicsville, Virginia (our home), but two were fought at Cold Harbor. While living there, I became an avid relic hunter–a type of amateur archaeologist digging for buttons, bullets, and buckles. Thanks to Dave Young, Sr., and Dave Young, Jr., who “pulled” me into this hobby, I got to see history up close and personally. It was fascinating, in one sense, to stand on the very ground where such history-shaping events occurred. In another way, the very activity was a sobering reminder of the tragedy that divided a nation. It even divided households, with brother fighting against brother.

It has often been reported that after that awful war, when Jefferson Davis of the Confederacy and Ulysses Grant of the Union died, their widows, Varina Davis and Julia Grant, settled near each other and became the closest of friends (Atlas Obscura). What a remarkable story of how two people, from opposite sides, came together! Their husbands were philosophically and militarily opposed to one another, but their spouses overcame those hindrances.

I never cease to be amazed at the differences that are overcome in Christ. On foreign mission trips, we may go to places where our governments are antagonistic to one another and find our common bond in Christ. Race, culture, education, and finance are all surmountable barriers in Christ. Ephesians 2:16 reveals how Jew and Gentile were reconciled by Christ’s cross in the church. God intended the church to be the place where people, despite their diversities, can all submit to Christ’s authority and be one. Yes, even yankees and southerners. Even easterners and westerners. Even college grads and grade school drop outs. Paul also wrote, “For by one Spirit we were ALL baptized into one body–whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free–and have ALL been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many” (1 Cor. 12:13-14). In a world that tries to draw us apart and divide us, politically, ethnically, and regionally, Christ wants us coming together! Through the church, we can.

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Copperopolis, California

Copperopolis, California

Neal Pollard

It boomed when “copper was king” and owed its thriving existence to shell casings made for the Union Army in the far-away Civil War.  Fittingly, her downtown streets were Union, Grant, Lincoln, and Sherman. There were 90 businesses in “Copper City” from 1865-1867. The extraction and production of copper ore found in such strikes as at Gopher Ridge, Quail Hill, and Hog Hill made Copperopolis a boom town for a short time.  A huge fire in the center of town, in 1867, coupled with the enormous drop in demand for copper following the end of the Civil War, left the community a virtual ghost town. So, despite a few modest copper mining rebounds periodically through World War II, Copperopolis, which yielded $12 million in copper from 1861 to 1946, is a shell of its former self. It is a resort and recreation area today, a modest little town who  once entertained the likes of Mark Twain, Nikola Tesla, and “Black Bart” (Charles Boles)(mymotherlode.com,  calaverashistory.org/copperopolis).

History is fascinating, with its “rags to riches,” “riches to rags,” and even “rags to riches to rags” stories.  Family histories play out the same way.  So can the rise and fall of nations.  The history of the church, wherever she has existed, may follow the same trajectory.  The Jerusalem church of Christ, where it all began, once boasted thousands of members.  In time, due to persecution and the introduction of false doctrines, the church there faded from view.  Today, it has only a modest presence. The same could be said of other congregations we read about in the New Testament.  Our congregation is somewhere on its course from the past to the future.  Where will it be in 10 years? 50 years?

Then, I look at my own life.  I have been a Christian for over 30 years.  I have preached for over 25 years. There have been Bible studies with non-Christians and new Christians. There have been efforts to try and influence others with the gospel.  My three sons are all nearly grown and on their own.  My wife and I have labored together to serve Christ.  But, each day, I must look and sincerely investigate what my spiritual trajectory is.  Am I growing nearer to Christ, acting more like Christ? Am I bearing more or less fruit? Are my best days in His kingdom behind me or in front of me? The good news is that, to a great degree, that lies within the scope of my free will and deliberate choices. With God’s help and to His glory, I can make today, tomorrow, and beyond the brightest days of service to Him.

Look at your life.  What legacy are you building? You will help determine that by what you do today.  Paul says, “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).

Photograph taken of ruins in Copperopolis, California.