ACHIEVING UNITY THROUGH HUMILITY

ACHIEVING UNITY THROUGH HUMILITY

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The late gospel preacher, George Bailey, was known for saying, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.” Truly, there is a little “i” in Christ! Paul exemplifies the way a servant of Christ and steward of the gospel (1 Cor. 4:1) behaves. How can we humbly serve Christ and, through such, contribute to unity in His body? Let’s examine 1 Corinthians 3:18-4:13 for some important keys.

Do Not Deceive Yourself (3:18-23)

Paul draws on his contrast between wisdom and foolishness back at the beginning of the letter. The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God (3:19). Why does Paul say that here? In part, it’s to drive home the point that they should not boast in men (like himself, Apollos, and Peter). But it is also to remind them that their glory and worth are tied to their being in Christ and belonging to Him. We wrestle so much with pride in our earthly accomplishments and attributes, but none of those things, of themselves, get us into heaven or bring about unity. Paul drives the point home by quoting from Job and Psalms. Worldly wisdom is a dead-end street. 

Be A Faithful Steward Of The Mysteries Of God (4:1-2)

Instead of being spiritual heroes to be idolized, Paul says that he and other church leaders were servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God (1). The mysteries of God is the testimony of God (2:1), God’s once-hidden mystery (2:7) now revealed in the preaching of the gospel (see Rom. 16:25; Eph. 3:1ff). Paul wanted to be seen as a trustworthy steward (manager) of that unparalleled message (cf. 3:11-15). Here’s the point. Paul knew he had only so much time, energy, and other resources to spend on accomplishing his purpose, and he wanted to be the most effective worker for Jesus that he could be. If that’s how we see ourselves, our purpose and work, it will keep us from focusing on who we are and what we have done. 

Remember Who Is Examining Your Work (4:3-5)

The previous point is made more powerful by the fact that not only should we not think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but we need to remember God is examining us. Ignore the idle critic or the armchair quarterback. Don’t spend a lot of time polishing your trophies and reading your “press clippings.” “Wait until the Lord comes” (4:5) and let Him acknowledge you and reward you. He will reveal all the secrets and He will disclose men’s motives. In other words, do the right things for the right reason and you will be richly rewarded by Christ in the end. God will praise you at The Judgment. 

Follow Good Examples Of Humility (4:6-13)

Paul and Apollos did not view each other as rivals, measuring who was more successful, more loved, or more influential among the Corinthians. He urges them to look at their example, and let God’s Word be the measuring stick of success and failure. The end result would be preventing arrogance and rivalry. These servants of Christ had been doing their service to Him at great personal cost–they were a spectacle to the world (4:9), fools  for Christ’s sake (4:10), weak (4:10), without honor (4:10), physically deprived (4:11), reviled, persecuted, and slandered (4:12-13), and, in summary, “we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now” (4:13b). Doesn’t sound like a condition to brag about, does it? Paul is not trying to portray himself as some spiritual superhero. Neither is he whining or complaining. He is trying to get the Corinthians to understand what matters. It’s not about jockeying for the top spot in the kingdom. It’s about being a faithful steward of the gospel and servant of the Christ. Focus so hard on that goal that you can ignore the praise and the persecution, and let Jesus exalt you at the end. A mindset like that kills division and disunity. 

 
Lehman members, led by our young people, putting songbooks and Bibles back in the pews last week.

The Unified Church

The Unified Church

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

In a society of division and separation, many churches have begun to struggle with unity. Members are bickering with each other, elders are unsure of how to respond to the events that have unfolded in the past year, and deacons are struggling to maintain the proper relationship with each member.. All of these factors combined has caused several churches to split or lose the unity they once had. 

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:17ff  that some who came to worship would be hungry, while others would be drunk and incapable of edifying each other. His point? Far too many churches are split due to a lack of understanding. We fail to understand why it is that we assemble together in the first place. Having a unified assembly starts with the individual. No church will find harmony if each member is unwilling to submit to God’s will and to His church family. 

When we come to worship, there are key aspects that we must insure take place (1 Corinthians 14:12-25). We must make sure what we do edifies others (v. 12). Paul in the context of tongues and prophecy says,  “So with yourselves, since you are eager for manifestations of the Spirit, strive to excel in building up the church” (14:12). 

Our actions must help build up the Christians around us. Our words must edify our brothers and sisters who are dealing with problems we may never even know about. And so the questions we must constantly be asking ourselves are these: How am I edifying? Am I being an encourager (making my fellow Christians stronger)? Am I building up others (boosting their confidence to help them deal with the world)? Am I promoting unity? 

As humans we thrive on encouragement.  We feel good when we receive a compliment. That’s because there is power in edification. As fellow brothers and sisters we should be actively trying to find ways to build each other up. 

This also means we must be sure to understand the power of our words and actions. Rather than spreading gossip or discord with our lips we must make it a priority to edify, encourage, lift up, serve, compliment, and look out for the good in our church family.

“PREACHERS ARE PEOPLE TOO” (2 Corinthians 10)

“PREACHERS ARE PEOPLE TOO” (2 Corinthians 10)

Tuesday’s Column: “Dale Mail” 
(As Dale’s wife, Janelle, is in the hospital, I am “pinch-hitting” for him)
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Neal Pollard

Of course, we know that preachers are people but sometimes some may have a picture that preachers have super-spiritual abilities when tempted or troubled or that preachers don’t face the same challenges everyone else does. As one of my dearest friends, a preacher, is in a severe health crisis as I type this, he wasn’t insulated from illness more than a non-preacher would be. His wife, children, & other family are experiencing what every family does in these moments.

Paul reverses focus from Corinth (chapters eight and nine) to himself in what we identify as chapter ten. His words serve as a good reminder, first for preachers themselves but also for others who view the preacher. What important truths does Paul reveal here?

PREACHERS WONDER HOW THEY ARE COMING ACROSS (1-2)

Paul sought to urge them with Christ’s meekness and gentleness, but he appears to wonder if that was how they perceived him (1). He was concerned about what tone he would have to take when he saw them, between having some unnamed critics and risking his relationship with the church as a whole (2). While some preachers appear to relish the rebuke and scold approach, they are a distinct minority. Yet, every preacher labors under a divine order to “not shrink from declaring…anything…profitable” (Acts 20:20) and “not shrink from declaring…the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). That includes some challenging subjects, and preachers want to be faithful to that while obeying Paul’s instructions to be kind rather than quarrelsome, correcting with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-25).

PREACHERS ARE AT WAR WITH THE DEVIL (3-6)

I know preachers who served in the military, and they no doubt have greater personal appreciation for Paul’s military metaphor. Our warfare is not against the flesh, but our weapons mighty before God (3-4). Part of our work is destructive (4-5) and aggressive (5-6). There is a readiness and activeness apart of this work (5-6). We are not at war with members or other preachers. Paul will say in verse eight that his God-given work was for building them up and not tearing them down (8). But, when we stand against the devil, we know that we may have to stand against those who are ignorant of his schemes (2:11) and led astray by his craftiness (11:3). Yet, we should never relish this part of our work!

PREACHERS WANT TO BE UNDERSTOOD & ACCEPTED (7-11)

Paul knew what his critics said about him. They attacked not only his “preaching style” (cf. 11:6) but even his appearance (10). But, Paul hoped his writing and his words would help these brethren see his heart and better understand where he was coming from and who he was trying to be. I think the vast majority of preachers want that same thing. Each of us has plenty of quirks and flaws, in style and even personality, that become crosses we bear. However, our confidence is that most brethren are so charitable and can see past those impediments (4:7) and allow God to work through our imperfections to his glory.

PREACHERS WILL BE JUDGED AGAINST WHAT IS RIGHT, NOT
AGAINST OTHER PREACHERS OR CHRISTIANS (12-18)

It is apparently an ancient practice for preachers to measure their own success by what others have accomplished. Who’s had more baptisms, speaking engagements, local church growth, debates, books and articles published, recognition, etc.? It sounds pretty petty when read in print, doesn’t it? How much does God care about that? 

Paul writes, “We are not so bold to class or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding” (12). “But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord (Jer. 9:24; he also quotes this in 1 Cor. 1:31). For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends” (17-18). Let that resonate and sink down into my heart. God is the only measuring stick that matters. Our consuming obsession must be with being good stewards of the opportunities He puts in our laps (13).

Most preachers do not enter preaching for financial gain, fame and glory, or as an outlet for some frustration. We love the church, love God, love the lost, and love His Word. But, it is easy for anyone to lose their way or forget their original intentions. After all, we have our own struggles in the flesh and deal with our own humanity (12:7; Rom. 7:14ff). Some of God’s people may need the reminder of 2 Corinthians 10, and even more preachers may need it. Thank God for His wisdom, who was “pleased…through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). 

Some of the great local preachers in and around southern Kentucky
A Swinging Beaver Church 

A Swinging Beaver Church 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale, with his wife Janelle

Dale Pollard

For a small child, having an open space park just outside your neighborhood was a dream come true. My younger brother and I would spend entire summers exploring, building forts, and fishing in that beautiful place. One day, as we were playing in the creek, we found a beaver laying in the middle of the water— it wasn’t moving. Without getting too graphic, we made several plans for this new prize find. We could make a hat out of the skin, or perhaps stuff it and put it in our room. The only problem was, mom would never allow us to drag this fifty pound beaver into the house. Besides this, the house was almost a mile away. In order to preserve our trophy we decided that the safest option would be to string the beaver up by the tail and hoist it up over the branch of a near by tree. That branch sagged under the weight of the beast while water dripped from it’s wet coat and onto the bike trail directly below. Without thinking about the terrible location we had chosen, Carl and I gave a high-five and began the long walk back to the house. We were beaming with pride and excitement because this was our little secret. A few weeks later, we returned to the spot and were outraged to find that someone had cut our swinging beaver down! Looking back, we still laugh as we think about the many bikers and joggers that ran down that path only to be surprised and confused by this animal carcass hanging over the path.

The church is a wonderful place to be, especially when you find yourself a member of a healthy congregation. When the church is functioning in accordance with scripture, the impact She can make is endless. One aspect of keeping God’s family healthy on the inside is keeping sin on the outside. Sadly, there are some congregations that have blatantly accepted the sinful lifestyles of individuals. It’s as if there were dead beavers hanging in their midst, but instead of cutting it down they choose to turn a blind eye. The longer it stays, the stinkier it becomes. This is a gruesome, but appropriate description of sin. Paul spends two letters rebuking the church at Corinth because they had allowed several horrific sins to divide and erode the Body there. They didn’t sever the hanging carcass, and as a result the stench of sin provoked Paul to write some of the harshest words to be penned in the New Testament.

Paul will give them five commands in chapter sixteen that we would do well to apply to our own lives as well. He says, “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all you do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:13-14). With these two short verses you can backpedal through the letter and see how these five imperatives would have saved them from not only a harsh rebuke, but many heartaches that were also consequences of their sins. They were stricken with disease and death in both the physical and spiritual sense. The apostle commands them, through inspiration, to be aware of their surroundings. Be alert. He reminds them to firmly stand on the truth of the gospel. He bluntly tells them to act like men, because they were acting like children. Then he tells them to be strong, but in a different sense. This strength is that inner strength that it takes to conquer temptation and carry on righteously in the midst of evil. These four commands are then to be carried out with love. A sacrificial love for one another means having the willingness to confront sin problems that are damaging the Bride of Christ. Not out of anger, but out love for His church and for the soul of the guilty member. This is the recipe for a healthy congregation through every age. It worked in Corinth, and it works today.

If there’s a beaver hanging in your congregation, the best thing to do is to cut it down! 

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Keeping Our Thoughts On The Lord During The Lord’s Supper

Keeping Our Thoughts On The Lord During The Lord’s Supper

Neal Pollard

“Three babies are crying across the auditorium… Somebody dropped a songbook… Everybody has a cough today… Oh, good… brother So ‘N So sure prayers nice prayers… My big toe sure is bother me… I think I forgot to write out the check for the giving again… Better do… Wow! Are we done already?”

That scenario probably happens in many a mind more frequently than we care to admit. The greatest memorial of all time can also provide one of the greatest mountains to climb– concentration and distraction. The Lord’s Supper is a congregational activity, but it is participated in by individuals. What does it take to maintain concentration on the significance of this feast?

Examination. See 1 Corinthians 11:28. We should examine our state of mind, taking care to dwell on Christ’s suffering sacrifice, His triumphant resurrection, our debt to Him, the depth of heaven’s love shown in this sacrifice, and the joyful hope we have through His act. We should examine our lives and see where we can live better and eliminate sin–checking our motives, morals, and mindset. Self-examination should mark this time.

Forgetting. We should forget the daily, mundane affairs of life. We are focusing on something of much greater and eternal significance. Other things should be shut out of the mind. This is the Lord’s time.

Fellowship. We take the Supper with every other saint present. This is a special moment of fellowship (Acts 2:42). In a sense, we are also taking it with all our brothers and sisters throughout the world. The communion provides a bond of fellowship that has special meaning and ties together all baptized believers in fellowship with Christ.

One. We commemorate the Lord in the one body according to the instructions of the one Spirit with the one hope that Christ’s atonement saves us and gives us access to the Father. We honor that one Lord and follow the one faith in obedience to the will of the one God. the Supper unites us with God as well as each other (Eph. 4:4-6).

Remembrance. The Lord’s Supper is a time to reflect on the cross with its manifold significance. Until He comes again, the Lord’s Supper is an appointed, weekly, and mental trip back to His death (1 Cor. 11:26). One remembers, with the help of the gospel writers, the body wounded on the tree and the saving blood flowing from the body of God in the flesh.

Thanksgiving. The Lord’s Supper is a time for deep appreciation and gratitude. Because He suffered, we can have peace. Because He died, we can have eternal life. Because He arose, we can rise from sin to newness of life.

Paul had to remind Corinth that the Lord’s Supper was not just another meal (1 Cor. 11:20-34). Modern Christians, too, need always to keep that fact in mind when we lose focus and concentration or forget why we’re partaking. What we need, despite the distractions, is EFFORT! May the Lord’s Supper never grow old for any of us!

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From Disinherited To Inheritors

From Disinherited To Inheritors

Neal Pollard
When Greek politician Andreas Papandreou died in 1996, he left his entire hefty estate to his third wife, Dimitria Liani. His three sons and a daughter, who had married a politician who was Papandreou’s political enemy, were disinherited when she and her siblings’ refused to ostracize this enemy. It was contested in Greek court for years, but so far that will has apparently not been overturned. Certainly, money can bring out the best and worst in people. The children’s point of view is almost certainly that they, as blood relatives, have as much or more right to their father’s inheritance than a woman he married in the last decade of his life (information via Ray Moseley, Chicago Tribune, 9/29/96).


In the New Testament, sin is legitimate grounds for the Heavenly Father to disinherit us. Paul tells the Corinthians this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. But his message is one of good news. With God, it is possible to go from disinherited to inheritors. He tells them, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” This passage reveals several important truths.
First, there is a pertinent fact. “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He repeats the thought in verse 10. That phrase indicates missing heaven and all the reward of it (cf. Mat. 25:34).
Second, there is a potential fraud. “Do not be deceived.” How vital that message is for our current culture! There is so much deception about the consequences of sin that it is impossible to keep up with, document, or catalog it.
Third, there are the particulars framed. Notice the sinful individuals enumerated—”fornicators…idolators…adulterers…homosexuals…sodomites…thieves..covetous…drunkards…revilers…extortioners.” Each of those lifestyles and behaviors merit greater study, but these are the ones who are disinherited by the Father. It is His estate and, as such, His call to make.
Then, there is a past forgotten. Human beings can carry vendettas and grudges to their graves, but the living God is not prone to such weakness. He does require repentance, implicit in the phrase “such were some of you.” Because they changed, God put the guilt of their sins in the rear-view mirror.
Finally, there is a purification forged. Paul concludes, “But you were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” God does not just leave us to wallow in our sins. He provides a way of escape. If we take it, He will make those past sins as if they never existed!
In other words, we can go from disinherited to inheritors!

IF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WILL TRULY BE UNDENOMINATIONAL

IF THE CHURCH OF CHRIST WILL TRULY BE UNDENOMINATIONAL

Neal Pollard

The Restoration Plea is valid, vital, and victorious!  It urges every believer in Christ to throw off the shackles of humanly-devised traditions and beliefs that undermine and contradict the sole, supreme authority of Christ.  Religious division has been spawned through time because of men’s preference for their own creeds and doctrines.  Reason and rationale becomes, “We’ve always done this” or “We prefer this” rather than “Thus saith the Lord!”  With human nature, we are often prone to see such faulty thinking in others while being blinded to our own potential guilt.  This happens to us individually and it certainly can happen to us collectively.  Painfully aware of my own limitations and shortcomings, may I offer some cautions to us out of a sincere love of Christ and His glorious bride?

If the church of Christ will truly be undenominational,

  • We must build our faith and beliefs from the “text out” rather than assert our beliefs and then find verses to support it.
  • We must avoid blind loyalty to any individual, congregation, school, work, and the like.
  • We must determine not to press our inclinations, preferences, judgments, and opinions to the extent that such divides brethren or becomes matters of fellowship.
  • We must strive to preach and practice “the whole counsel of God,” even in unpopular matters or those we may have neglected (church discipline, evangelism, marriage, divorce, and remarriage, moral purity, first-century-like benevolence, etc.).
  • We must be patient and loving within and towards congregations, be they Thessalonicas or Corinths.
  • We must avoid unconditionally venerating and idolizing men above the Lord.
  • We must repent of our intensely “in-reach” philosophy and rededicate ourselves to intense “outreach” in our communities.
  • We must avoid convenient silence in our pulpits and classrooms regarding New Testament distinctiveness and doctrine.
  • We must increase our faith in the absolute, unqualified Lordship of Jesus.

This list is inevitably incomplete and imperfect.  How could it not be, since it is put forward by one who is certainly both those things?  Yet, it is put forward to emphasize that there is an urgent need for us to continually examine our beliefs and practices making sure our allegiance is to the Christ and not men—however great and noble they seem to us.  Our Lord said, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48).

DENNIS RODMAN AND FORGING FRUITFUL FELLOWSHIP

DENNIS RODMAN AND FORGING FRUITFUL FELLOWSHIP

Neal Pollard

The latest twist in the latest Dennis Rodman saga, being admitted to rehab, may help explain what led to his state of mind in his recently-completed “diplomacy trip” to North Korea.  Except for his most ardent supporters, people were left scratching their heads over his extremely friendly overtures and fawning over a regime recently described by Robert Marquand in this way: “The regime is repressive in a way unthinkable in the West. Loyalty to the Kim family is paramount. There is no exile movement, no dissent, no opposition newspaper. Access to South Korean media is outlawed, as is free travel. Famously repressive Cold War states like Albania and Romania were fabulous models of freedom compared to the North today” (via Christian Science Monitor, 1/19/14).  Execution, torture, and starvation is a routine form of population control there, and this is a nation possessing nuclear weapons.  Why Rodman would call its dictator a “beloved friend” and a “very good guy” is beyond baffling.  He seems out of touch with reality.

The Bible warns the Christian against forging associations that hurt the cause of Christ.  In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Paul addresses the matter of being “bound together with unbelievers.”  Notice what the text reveals.

THE EXHORTATION (14).  He writes, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers.”  Paul found this matter both urgent and important.  Who we connect ourselves with makes a difference.

THE EXPLANATION (14-16).  Paul says such fellowship is spiritually irrational, showing examples of how non-sensical it is.  He also says such fellowship disregards the fact that we are God’s temple.  We cannot be flippant about that!

THE EVIDENCE (16-17).  Paul cites at least six different Old Testament passages, proof for his point of the destructiveness of these evil associations (Ex. 29:45, Lev. 26:12; Jer. 31:1; Ezek. 37:27; Ex. 25:8; Isa. 52:11).  By doing this, Paul shows that this is a concept—avoiding fellowship with unbelievers—proven by Scripture.

THE ENRICHMENT (18).  When we avoid unrighteous fellowship, we help open the door to fellowship with God.  He welcomes us, adopts us, and forges relationship with us.  The choice of enjoying fellowship with God or the unbeliever seems clear and easy.

I cannot understand guys like Mr. Rodman.  He may be seeking attention.  His motives may never be known.  Yet, when it comes to how we as Christians conduct ourselves with the world, we are going to have the spiritual insight to choose wisely!