The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Apparently, mankind has been curious about Jesus’ childhood and has desired to “fill in the blanks” concerning His temperament, personality, and activities during those formidable years. Most famously, the apocryphal (literally, “hidden writings,” not claiming or meeting the test of inspiration) “Gospel of Thomas” writes detailed, lengthy accounts of what Jesus did and how Jesus was as a boy. Mary Jane Chaignot summarizes this book, saying, “The gospel portrays Jesus as already endowed with special powers, but still having the mind of a child – a child who didn’t always use those powers wisely” (reference). Truly, a reading of this “gospel” (you can find the entire text: here) contradicts the idea of a sinlessly perfect Savior who could be our substitute and is at odds with the little we do see in the inspired writings of the gospels. It reflects humanity’s tendency to make God in his own image (see Psalm 50:21). Having said that, we benefit from what Luke is led to share with us from an incident when Jesus is twelve years old (2:42). “At the age of 12 a boy was prepared for his entry to the religious community which took place when he was 13” (Marshall, NIGTC, 126).

HE WAS FAITHFULLY TRAINED BY HIS PARENTS (Luke 2:41-42)

Luke reveals another fact consistent with what we’ve already seen from Joseph and Mary. They were faithfully obedient to the Law’s demands and commands. Every year, they went to the Passover feast (41). Did you know the entire nation of Israel neglected to properly observe the Passover from the days of Samuel to the time of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:21-23)? That means that such spiritual greats as David, Solomon, and Hezekiah failed in this regard during their illustrious reigns. Jesus’ parents made sure He was there every appointed time. That’s where we find Him in this account. By application, what a lesson for us as parents interested in the proper training of our children. At its best, this is difficult as we compete with the world’s message and appeal. We cannot afford to lose ground by keeping them from the fellowship of God’s people. Joseph and Mary were stewards of a precious soul. 

HE WAS ENGROSSED IN LEARNING GOD’S WORD (43-47)

Jesus obviously did not restrict His study of Scripture to the “assemblies,” though. His family stayed the prescribed time in Jerusalem for the feast (seven days, according to Exo. 12:15), but Jesus, unencumbered with the time concerns of adults, stays behind (43)–not to play or get into mischief, but to sit in the temple among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions (46). His level of comprehension and depth of explanation amazed these experts on the Law of Moses, the best of the best (47). Seeing the spiritual focus of twelve-year-old Jesus, I am convicted to push myself to more intensely long for the nourishment of God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Pet. 2:2). 

HE WAS IN SUBJECTION TO HIS PARENTS (48-51)

Luke tells us of the distress His family felt when they discovered He was not in the caravan of their relatives and other fellow-pilgrims making the long, arduous journey back to Nazareth. They go back and search for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple (44-46). Anyone who has even briefly lost their children at the mall or left them at the church building can well imagine what Joseph and Mary must have felt. This special child with which they were entrusted is lost! Where did He sleep those few nights He was alone? How early did He arrive and how late did He stay? When His parents do find Him, they find Him content and apparently unaware that they were looking for Him. His answer perplexes them, that He was being about His Father’s business. They felt mistreated, but nothing in Jesus’ reply demonstrates disrespect or dishonor. Luke reinforces this both with the statement of fact, that “He continued in subjection to them,” and the statement about His character (52). The One who would later demonstrate such amazing preaching and power was properly preparing Himself. That preparation included being what He should be in the home. 

HE WAS GROWING IN EVERY GOOD WAY (52)

There are biblical statements which are incredibly comprehensive. The five fundamental demonstrations of nature, time, force, motion, space, and matter, are revealed in the first verse of the Bible. Here, the four areas of human development, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social, are evident in the life of young Jesus. He “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (52).  Parents, this teaches us about the responsibility we have to encourage the balanced development of our children. We cannot afford to neglect any of these areas. Do not downplay or downgrade the importance of learning and an education which does not come at the expense of faith. Help them to take care of their physical bodies, with proper nutrition, exercise, and teaching them to work and play. Make sure they are socially well-adjusted, not just with peers but also those older and younger than them–able to properly interact with strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Most of all, strive to develop their knowledge of the Bible and faith in the God who loves them. It’s a difficult balancing act, but it can be done! Like Jesus, our children need to grow in every good way!

More About God

More About God

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

 

Carl Pollard

It’s physically impossible for us to know everything about God. Our minds wouldn’t be able to comprehend Who He Is, but this doesn’t give us an excuse to not try and know more about the Creator. When I was younger, I believed in God. I knew He existed, but I failed to grasp some very important things about God. For example, how much He cares for us. 
Matthew 10:31-32 says, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” Have you ever stopped to think about the fact that God cares for you personally? When we pray to Him, He takes the time to listen to our problems. People pay thousands of dollars for someone to listen to them. This care that God has for us is greater than anything on earth.
With this in mind, we need to spend more time trying to grow our relationship with Him. John 3:16 shows just how badly God desires to call us His own. God loved the world. He cares for us and wants us. Knowing how much He cares for us, let’s use this to work harder in our relationship with God. Earthly relationships take work. If we love someone it takes effort to have a healthy relationship. It takes time, commitment, sacrifice, and communication. It’s the same in our relationship with God.
My parents used to say, “Remember who you are and Whose you are.” If we would understand more about God, the fact that He is our Father and that He is the source of Love, we can live right for Him. Knowing these things about the Father brings understanding. We now understand that,

A personal knowledge of God leads to

–A Prayerful Life (1 John 5:14) 

–A Peaceful life (2 Thes. 3:16) 

–A Purposeful Life (Ecc. 12:13-14)

Photo credit: Pixabay
Parkour

Parkour

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

garyandme521

Gary Pollard

What is faith? I don’t have faith in my parkour abilities. My lack of faith comes from several factors: basic safety awareness, physique, and reality. Because of this, I have little or no confidence in my ability to scale walls. Faith is rational confidence. We’re confident about things we understand and have experience or proficiency with.

Faith in God is confidence. We’re confident that God exists. We’re confident that he made everything. We know he loves us. We know he’s coming back. We know that faithful people get to live with him.

A faithful Christian is a rationally confident Christian. When we’re doing our best to live moral lives, we’re confident in grace. We’re confident in our destination. We have reason to have confidence in God because we’ve worked on knowing him. We have the Bible and creation itself to help us know God. The more we know him, the more confidence we have.

What if I want more confidence in my parkour abilities? I’d have to hit the gym like crazy and somehow become graceful. I’d have to want to develop that skill. Confidence comes from experience and knowledge.

What if we need more faith? Get to know God more. Pay attention to all of the ways life points to a much higher power. Get close to other Christians. Get excited for heaven. No one can walk away from that without more confidence in our awesome God.

Would Jesus Scrub Grape Juice Stains?

Would Jesus Scrub Grape Juice Stains?

Neal Pollard

Bob Russell tells the story of Dwight Day, a UPS pilot who had come back to church after many years away. Russell walked into the auditorium one day to catch Day scrubbing grape juice stains off the pews. This pilot was an important man with sufficient money to hire someone to do the job, but there he was scrubbing. He “wasn’t too important to clean the pews” (When God Builds A Church, 178).

Who visits the elderly members in the nursing home? Who participates in the workday? Who takes the poor, ill member to a doctor’s appointment? Who prepares the communion? Who teaches the cradle roll class? Who grades the correspondence courses? Who gives a lift to someone who needs a ride to church? Who does the many “invisible,” thankless tasks that must be done for the church to grow and meet its many responsibilities? The servant!

The serving Christian is not necessarily the one-talent, lower-class, uneducated person ill-equipped to do something more “sophisticated” and “important.” These are the kinds of things anyone can do, but only the servant does them. Lest we consider such tasks too menial and such people meaningless, we reflect on John 13. That chapter records the all-knowing, all-powerful Creator of the universe (you can’t one-up that) pouring water into a basin, washing the disciples’ feet and drying them with a towel he had put around Himself (v. 5). They had to have been baffled, this group who had been jockeying for a seat on His left and right hand in the vision of Kingdom greatness they had imagined (cf. Mat. 20:21). What were they thinking as Jesus tells them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (12b-17).

This was a gut-punch to them and to so many of us. We can be more interested in getting the good seat than stooping to wash the dirty foot (or scrub the grape juice-stained pew). But we will miss the heavenly definition of spiritual greatness unless we lower ourselves. Jesus told the Sons of Thunder and their mother to remove the worldly gauging of greatness out of their thinking (Mat. 20:25-28). Perhaps He’d have that conversation with you and me, too. May God grant us the humility to see the opportunities and serve as stain scrubbers and every other, similar task that allows Him to use us for His glory. If that spirit permeates a congregation, it will turn the whole world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6)!

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CHURCH GROWTH STARTERS

CHURCH GROWTH STARTERS

Neal Pollard

  • Offer “medical missions” benevolent campaign in the neighborhood, utilizing the talents of members with medical expertise.
  • Have a worship leadership training class.
  • Incorporate periodic explanations about the purpose and biblical foundation for the acts of worship and the invitation during the worship services.
  • Have an elder/deacon intensive training class.
  • Host community Bible studies in various homes on a regular basis, inviting friends, co-workers, neighbors, unchurched family, etc.
  • Have a benevolent financial planning and strategies seminar, utilizing the talents of members with accounting and other finance-related skills and backgrounds.
  • Have a “special events Sunday,” where a special contribution is taken to fund evangelistic events for the year.
  • Host a website, which you advertise to the community, soliciting religious questions they have on their minds (for an example of this, see 12questions.net—hosted by the Mount Juliet church of Christ).
  • Utilize deacons to identify the talents of new members and new Christians, and then look for ways to leverage them.
  • Start a “come back home” campaign to retrieve erring and fallen away members.
  • Create a bumper sticker that identifies the congregation concisely and in a way that would draw community interest. The Palm Beach Lakes congregation has seen several baptisms from such an effort (pblcoc.org).
  • Make the church website current, interactive, and informative, not just about churches of Christ as a whole but what makes the local church relevant to people’s needs.
  • Give the teens an evangelistic project (teen gospel meeting, teen visitation program, feeding the homeless, etc.).
  • Incorporate as many members as possible in grading Bible correspondence courses (for students both foreign and domestic).
  • Plan, publicize, and promote a Sunday for every member in the directory to be present for worship, then use that day to present the plan and work of the church.
  • Train and use members to “carry” visitors from the parking lot to the dinner table, adopting visitors and helping them find classes and seats in the auditorium as well as connecting them to other members.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for new faces, stepping out of your comfort zone to meet and greet them. Be prepared to follow up and help them meet others, too.
  • Pray about ways you can be more involved in the work of the church and ask the leadership for ways you can be put to work.
  • Make a list of members and visitors that you can influence and encourage, then utilize it.

How To See The Good In Others

How To See The Good In Others

Neal Pollard

Some just can’t! They assume bad motives, intentions, and behaviors in others. They like to predict failure and disaster. Some take that attitude toward people, including Christians. “They won’t last!” “They can’t cut it as a deacon/elder.” “He won’t ever be a good preacher!” “They just want the praise of men.” Think about all the people you know and interact with. Some are exceptionally talented and pleasant and some are pretty worthless and repulsive, but most are in-between the two extremes. But, what if I told you that you could influence what others become?  Barnabas did (Acts 4:36).  He was so good at encouraging people, “encouragement” wasn’t his middle name but his first name. Who was the first one to see good in Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:27)? Who saw great potential in Antioch (Acts 11:23-26)? Who still believed in John Mark (Acts 15:37), who Paul would later think valuable once more (2 Tim. 4:11)? Barnabas was a great leader because of what he could see in others. We can make an eternal difference in people by seeing the good in them.

First, take them where they are. Jesus did.  Do you remember when Jesus met Peter (Luke 5:1-11)? Peter calls himself sinful.  We know he was impetuous (John 18:10) and could use unsavory words (Mat. 26:74). Peter’s business partners, the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) seemed to have some anger management issues. In fact, Jesus made it an emphasis to take sinful people and work with them wherever they were (the woman at the well, the sinful woman caught in adultery, Bacchus, publicans, sinners, etc.). We will never help people get to heaven if we can’t take them where they are.

Then, see them for what they could be. Whether it’s a non-Christian or Christian, they need us to be able to see their potential and think the best of them. I don’t mean gullibility or compromise, but optimism! Why did Christ put such effort into Peter? He was a sinful man when He met him, made many mistakes while he was with Him, and denied Him in His greatest moment of need (Luke 22:60-62). He saw what Peter could be (John 21:15-17). Look past people’s quirks and flaws; imagine the possibilities.  There’s got to be a soul-winner in every Christian, since Christ commands it of us all (Mark 16:15-16). Every one of us can be faithful, dedicated, and fruitful Christians. Every lost person could have their hearts softened by the gospel–at the least the gospel has the power (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16). Remember, love “hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

Finally, help them be what they can be. It’s far easier to be the critic and tell people what they’re doing wrong. But remember, “To belittle is to be little.” Criticism alone is useless.  It’s a lot tougher to help people improve and to go about helping with patience. Jesus didn’t end His work by telling people what sinners or failures they were. He guided them to the better way (Mat. 7:13). He told the adulteress to stop sinning (John 8:11). He told Peter to go feed His sheep (John 21). When He was through with Zaccheus, he went from thief to philanthropist. Jesus’ whole purpose was to take people afflicted with sin and transform them. It is rewarding work to invest in people and to help them grow. The Bible tells us to help people do better and be better (Gal. 6:1). To see the best in others, be willing to help and lead them (Luke 6:39-40).

If we are negative and pessimistic, that really is just a commentary on us. Look for good in others. Accept, anticipate, and assist!