Comfort For The Hurting

Comfort For The Hurting

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

 
Many emotions run through different individuals when faced with the loss of a loved one or dealing with intense pain. These emotions can present themselves as questions: 
  • Confusion: “Why did this happen?”
  • Sadness: “How will I go on?” 
  • Anger: “Who allowed this to happen?” 

Who can answer these questions? 

Who can provide comfort? 

Who can guide your heart through the heartbreaking moments in life? 

Is it not the Creator?

 Here’s a quick reminder to help give those who are dealing with loss and tragedy some perspective. 

Though “end” is a very human term,  

100 years from now I’ll be alive and so will you. 150, 200 years from now I’ll be alive and so will you. 

Since we are made in the image of God, that means… 

  1. When God breathed into you the breath of life He gave you a piece of Himself called the soul which will live forever…somewhere. 
  2. When God created you in a more intimate way unlike the beasts of the field and the birds of the air He gave you free choice. 
  3. He gave you the ability to reason.
  4. He gave you the ability to contact Him and be contacted by him. 

How sad and how tragic it would be to live your life with no hope. God offers wonderful and comforting news even at times where such news seems to be missing. 

God loves you more than anyone can. 

God loves you more than you can comprehend.  

Though many cry for and with you when you hurt, that love falls short of the one who expresses His love in a way that’s perfect and unfailing. 

You will and perhaps you currently experience feelings you can’t put into words, but God feels them and understands them. 

God can walk you through the hurts. Life doesn’t have to be impossibly tragic and void of purpose. 

God created the heart. He can heal yours. God created the mind. He can sort yours out. God made the soul. He can save yours. God created the body. He can give you rest. God created the eyes. He can wipe your tears away. God created the shoulder, but His are the only shoulders capable of bearing the weight of all those who lean on them. 

Facts About Jesus From John One That Many Deny

Facts About Jesus From John One That Many Deny

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Perhaps it is inevitable that someone as well-known as Jesus Christ would be subject to so much misinformation. Think about how things are said about Jesus that are not true. John’s gospel begins in a different way. His audience was wider than just Jews, just Romans, or just Greeks. His was truly a universal gospel, so he was writing to the whole world. In just the first several verses of his gospel, he affirms several things people subsequently denied about Him.

  • He is eternal (1-2)–“In the beginning was the Word” (see also 1:15,30).
  • He is deity (1)–“The Word was God” 
  • He created everything (3,10)
  • He became flesh (14)
  • He came to show us God, the Father (18)
  • His coming was to take away the sins of the world (29)
  • He is the Son of God (34)

There are those even in religion that say Jesus was a created being rather than being co-eternal as God. There are those who would reject the idea of the worship of Jesus being acceptable, though He is expressly called God. There are those who say that everything came into being by the process of evolution rather than Moses’ record (Gen. 1-2) being carried out by the Word (Col. 1:16-17). There are those who say God could not become flesh, since flesh is evil. There are those who deny the inspiration of Scripture, and thus would deny the New Testament actually records Jesus showing us the Father or otherwise communicating His will. 

It is incorrect to say that we can accept the biblical record of Jesus without faith. He existed eternally before becoming flesh. He was born of a virgin. He lived a totally sinless life. He died a death that satisfied God’s justice as a substitute for our sins. He was buried in a tomb, but was raised from the dead to live forevermore. He appeared to many of His disciples over forty days before ascending to heaven from which He will some day come again to judge the entire world. How can we say it takes no faith to follow Jesus? Instead, we should say that it takes more faith to embrace any competing explanation. The leading candidate to rival the biblical account is godless evolution. Try examining that with any level of care without discovering the infinitely greater amount of faith to explain how random chance and mindless, amoral matter produces the meticulously orderly, complex universe filled with intelligent life. 

Sometimes we are benefited by going back to basics. John one is written so simply and straightforwardly, yet it contains some of the biggest, broadest truths which so many reject. May we reflect carefully on the power of those truths so that it causes us to live better and differently! 

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Traditional Traditions Transitioned

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

 
Say that three times in a row. Now that you’ve done that, let’s focus on a very important question. Are traditions splitting the church? To answer this we must look at the source of our traditions. As a church we follow both divine and man-made traditions. The ones from God must be followed and taught in the church, but the ones from man have no authority from God.
 
So, are traditions splitting the church? The word “tradition” means to “pass something down.” Galatians 1:14 says, “and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” Were the traditions that Paul was learning about passed down by man or by God? He labels them as being his “ancestors’ traditions.”
 
We must be careful to determine if a tradition that is being taught is divine or was instituted by our “ancestors.” For example, serving the Lord’s Supper from the front of the auditorium on a table that says, “Do This in Remembrance of Me”, and using brass plates are man-made traditions. This is not found in scripture.
 
There’s nothing wrong with practicing this tradition. The problem is when some try to enforce this and say “if you don’t do this for the Lord’s Supper then you haven’t really done what has been commanded.”
 
This teaching of tradition can split the church and we must be careful that we are enforcing God’s tradition and not our own. To do this we should ask, “Is it a violation of Scripture, or is it a tradition?” It’s okay to go along with traditions, but it is not okay to bind human traditions as a salvation issue.
 
There are some in the church that have taken their man-made traditions to heart. So we must ask ourselves, are we binding man-made traditions on others for salvation? Do we get upset if someone changes up the order of worship? Maybe we get mad when there are only two songs between the opening prayer and the sermon?
 
Divine traditions are what we must follow, and we must not force man-made traditions. Galatians 1:8-9 says, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” Paul’s point is this: “Who did you receive it from?”
 
1 Corinthians 15:1-3 tells us, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” It is important that we check to see where the tradition came from.
 
Paul got his teachings from Jesus Christ. That is the divine source we must use. Not your preacher or the old wise man. This tradition was divine. Even if it is a tradition that has been around for many years, this does not automatically make it a divine tradition.
 
We must always keep in mind two facts when it comes to tradition.
  1. Divine tradition is binding while man-made is not.
  2. Look for the source of the tradition in order to clarify fact number one.

Learning A Lesson From A Lantern

Learning A Lesson From A Lantern

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

I’m a big fan of old fashioned lighting, especially old kerosene lanterns because they’re simple. I went to light one of my lanterns and the flame wouldn’t stay alive for more than a few seconds. I thought, “Maybe the vent is covered in carbon and there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame.” So, I took it apart, cleaned it out, and put it back together. I was sure it was the vent.

To my chagrin, the flame died within seconds even after the lantern was cleaned. Next I trimmed the wick because it seemed too dark; perhaps having a fresh wick would allow the flame to stay alive. It wasn’t a stopped vent, so it had to be the wick. Sure enough, the flame died even with a fresh wick. At this point I was stumped. 

The next day it occurred to me whilst putting gas in my car: the lantern was just out of kerosene! It was obvious to the extreme. I knew Chelsea would never let that one go. When I got home I put the kerosene into the lantern which, of course, was the solution to a simple problem that I overcomplicated.

This is a mundane example of a profound truth: we make mistakes as humans. Worse yet, some people put words in God’s mouth that He never used. “My God is a God of love – He wouldn’t condemn me just for this one little sin.” “God doesn’t care if we live the way we want.” Some use phrases like this with great confidence while overlooking an obvious truth: God has told us what He does and does not care about in His word.

If we aren’t in the word listening to God and allowing Him to change us, our solutions will end in failure. There was only one solution to keep that flame going in my lantern. There is only one right way to follow God, and He’s told us how to do that! Life will be so much easier for those who look to God for answers before relying on their own wisdom.

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Fantastic Fact About Forgiveness

Fantastic Fact About Forgiveness

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

When we forgive someone we usually do not forget what we forgave. Unless there is an underlying condition, our minds do not automatically or immediately delete irrelevant information, like something we no longer hold against another person. Because of this, it can be hard to understand what God’s forgiveness means for the Christian. We’ll think, “I know He has forgiven me, but there’s no way He’s forgotten about it. Maybe it will ‘cloud’ His decision to forgive me next time I ask.” 

This is a very common mindset, and one that I struggle with daily. When we look at scripture, though, it paints a very different picture of what God’s forgiveness really does! 

Forgiveness is the word ἀφίημι (afiemi). It has several definitions, according to Bauer: 

1. To dismiss or release someone from a place or presence. 

2. To release from a moral obligation or consequence, to cancel, remit, or pardon. 

3. To move away with implication of causing a separation, to leave or depart from. 

(BDAG 155)

Knowing this, we should look at Hebrews 8.12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will not remember their sins anymore.” We understand that context is geared toward contrasting the old and new covenant, but it at least gives us insight into the process behind forgiveness. 

When we get forgiveness from God, that sin is eradicated. It no longer exists, it will not affect our relationship with God anymore. “Remember” in Hebrews eight is, “To call information to memory.” It’s not only that God no longer holds a sin against us, it’s that it ceases to exist in His mind. How awesome is that? 

When we ask God for forgiveness, let’s approach His throne with humility, yes, but also with confidence that He has the power and desire to make that sin disappear from our account forever. 

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WHY DO YOU BELIEVE?

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard III

I believe that God exists. I believe that He communicated with His creation by direct contact, messengers, and a series of ancient texts. I believe that He wants His human creation to be with Him after they die. I believe that He expects those who claim to be His to act within the guidelines He set in those ancient texts. I believe that there is life after death and that where we go depends on whether or not we follow this God.

Why do I believe this, though? What reason do I have to believe in something I cannot experience with my senses? I was not there thousands of years ago when the prophets and Hebrews talked to God. I was not there when God came among men and taught. I was not there when the Spirit-inspired authors of the original texts delivered their writings to the early church. The ancient texts translated into English sometimes do not effectively communicate the emotion of the words and concepts in the original language. So why do I believe these things? Why do you believe these things?

Think about this carefully.  From Genesis to Revelation the message is clear; God wants His people to exist with Him after time is destroyed. This message was communicated to an impossible variety of people, sometimes separated by hundreds of years, thousands of miles, culture, kingdom, race, and language. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts of these ancient texts in many, many different languages. There are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments that are separated by about a thousand years, at least 8 different languages, hundreds (if not thousands) of miles of geography, and many different cultures. Yet, they are at least 95% accurate to each other. The remaining 5% do not contain a single contradiction; rather, they are spelling errors, slips of the pen, writing on the wrong line, or minor variances (“God said” vs. “He said” or “and” vs. “but”).

Of the rich libraries we have of ancient literature, none can hold even the dimmest candle to the profound accuracy and unity of the scriptures. They could not have been produced by man alone. There had to be Someone not confined by time supervising each person as they wrote. Keep in mind, these ancient cultures did not have the advantage of modern communication. They were almost totally isolated from each other and would have known little of the others’ existence, much less what they experienced or wrote from God. Our Bible has supernatural origins and its contents reveal the nature of our Creator. What I believe comes from this book because I know it is God’s message to mankind. I encourage those who have not already done so to do an in-depth study of the origin of scripture. It is one of the most faith-building studies anyone could undertake. When you know with certainty that what you are reading contains the actual thoughts and desires of God, it bolsters your faith in ways I could not begin to adequately describe.

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Uncial 220 (fragment of Romans 4:23-5:3)

What Vision Is

What Vision Is

Neal Pollard

It is the ability to see what a thing could be. A carpenter, looking at a tree, sees with a trained eye much more than others can see. With his expert shaping, appropriate tools, and seasoned patience, he can make out of that tree what was once only in his mind. The Lord needs people, from the leadership down, who look at the community, each other, their income, and their abilities and see what could be done. It takes no effort, emotion, or education to say, “It can’t be done!” That’s what is expected. Vision sees what could be.

It is the ability to not obsess over what a thing has been. Due respect is owed to the labors of the past, and due recognition is owed both its successes and failures. The past, however glorious, will have ample samples of both. Yet, the people, plans, and programs of today and tomorrow should not be shackled and chained exclusively to was has been. Vision is not always settling for being “has beens.” “Will be” is what Paul seemed more focused in pursuing (cf. Phil. 3:10-12). Biblical vision recognizes that doctrine cannot change, but methods, technology, tools, and people invariably do. Vision asks how people living in the present time can best reach people living in the present time and prepare them for an endless eternity.
It is the ability to trust in what God can make it be. No plan would succeed without God’s hand in it. I love the prayers where brethren plead, “Help us in the things that are right and defeat us in the things that are wrong.” Among the Bible’s heroes are those who factor God into the plans and say, “We are well able” (Caleb, Num. 13:30). “I can do all things” (Paul, Phil. 4:13), “There is nothing too hard…” (Jeremiah, Jer. 32:17), and “No good thing does He withhold” (the sons of Korah, Psa. 84:11). Our vision can be bold when “our” is God and us! Since God made the sky, the limit exceeds even that! Our giving, our ambitions, our goals, and our sights should be set to reflect our belief in that fact.
Where will we be this time next year? In five or ten years? Vision plays a role in that. Vision attempts to see the unseen, forget the past, and trust the One who holds past, present, and future in His all-powerful hand. With those truths factored in, let us dream big dreams!

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The Church Is Perfect, But It Isn’t

The Church Is Perfect, But It Isn’t

Neal Pollard

After a weekend full of lessons which built our appreciation for Christ’s church, I have a renewed appreciation for the incredible institution God premeditated from eternity.  The Ephesian epistle paints the picture of the church as Jesus’ bride, army, body, inheritance, and family.  This exalted picture is at odds with many, from a surprising variety of sources, who have such a low view of the church and her members.  Because the church belongs to and is so intimately associated with Christ, we should be most circumspect about the various criticisms we lob at her.  When we evaluate specifics regarding the church, we must remember that the church is perfect.  Yet, the church is also most imperfect.  The “Divine Side” could not be improved.  The “Human Side” always could be.

  • The Church’s Organization Is Perfect, But Her Overseers Aren’t.
  • The Work Of The Evangelist Is Perfect, But Those Who Do That Work Aren’t.
  • The Purpose And Mission Of The Church Is Perfect, But The People Tasked With It Aren’t.
  • The Plan To Reach The Lost Is Perfect, But Soul-Winners Aren’t.
  • The Pattern Of Worship Is Perfect, But The Worshippers Aren’t.
  • The Call To Love One Another Is Perfect, But We, The Called, Aren’t.
  • The Commands For Christian Living Are Perfect, But We Are Imperfect.

It is easy to forget this as we set expectations for others.  We may even set a higher standard for others than that by which we would wish ourselves judged.  As we level our various criticisms at the church, we must evaluate our motives and intentions while being careful not assign to others’ motives and intentions what may simply be their inevitable if unpalatable imperfection.  We should always strive for perfection—maturity and completeness—but keep in mind that only God’s design, desire, and direction for the church is perfect. We must put away sin, jealously guard our candlestick, and root out sin in the camp. Yet, we are also directed to bear with one another in love, being kind, not behaving rudely, being courteous, sympathetic, and gentle. These biblical mandates will temper our tantrums and cushion our criticisms.  We will be able to look at the church not only as it is, but as something we, imperfect as we ourselves are, can encourage to be better.  Since none of us are, thank God His Son is perfect.

“No Doubt You Are The People, And Wisdom Will Die With You!”

“No Doubt You Are The People, And Wisdom Will Die With You!”

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Neal Pollard

This is, in my estimation, the most withering of Job’s comebacks to those miserable comforters introduced to us as his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar (2:11).  The statement is made by Job in Job 12:2 at the end of the first cycle of speeches by these friends, in all of which are accusations and insinuations that Job was suffering due to sins he had committed.  They were wrong, but they were certain they were right.

Aren’t there more than a few Eliphazes, Bildads, and Zophars today?  There are those who act as though they believe civilization has been holding its collective, bated breath in great anticipation of their arrival.  So many complexities, mysteries, and intellectual quagmires have sat stubbornly, mystifying their forebears, but pliably come forward as mere child’s play for them.  Or perhaps they purport themselves to be experts, demonstrating academic or professional credentials in support of such.  They may even move or speak with the air of unmistakeable confidence.  It might be that they have substantial followings and impressive venues to spout their philosophical triumphs.  

But, as the case was for Job, the proof is in the pudding.  God’s Word proved these men wrong.  Job 42 shows that their claims and theories, however confidently asserted, were at odds with His mind.  They spoke words of man’s wisdom.  It may have sounded right on the surface, but it wasn’t right.  

Consider Paul’s message to Corinth.  He speaks of preaching, the foolishness of God, coming in the wake of men’s inability to grasp His wisdom.  Then he writes, “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are,  so that no man may boast before God” (1 Cor. 1:25-29).

Humility, teachability, and submission are three indispensable quality traits we must possess when it comes to the Bible.  Our theology must be formed by the latter (the Bible) and our character is formed by the former (the quality traits).  Let us forever be less concerned with being judged right by others and be consumed with a desire to be right with God.

 

Staying On The Rails

Staying On The Rails

Neal Pollard

Without A Belief In The Bible’s Inspiration…

  • Why would I read, meditate upon, or study it daily (or at all) to guide my life?
  • What will be the paradigm for directing and shaping my life?
  • From where will I draw my understanding of Who Jesus is, what He did, and how I must relate to Him?
  • How do I form my understanding of where I came from, why I am here, or where I am going?
  • Why would I trust or follow what it says to do in even a single case, circumstance, or verse?
  • What logical, ultimate constraint do I have from any behavior or act I desire to do, no matter how aberrant or outlandish society finds it?
  • How do we evaluate the content of any word, attitude, or action for rightness or wrongness?
  • On what basis would I accept absolutes, which I must (even if I absolutely deny the existence of absolute truth)?
  • Who or what will be my standard of authority?

One of the most famous movie scenes of all time depicts Dr. Richard Kimble, played by Harrison Ford, desperately running, orange prison jump suit, shackles, and all, as a derailed train caroms out of control, rapidly gaining on him, and threatening his life. The videography is spectacular, cutting quite an imposing figure.  A multi-ton mass of metal off the rail and out of control promises nothing but damage and destruction.  As long as the train is on the track, its weight and speed do not pose a threat.  If it is not, the prospects are frightening.

The premise that the Bible is the Word of God from the mind of God through men provides an answer to all the above, weighty questions.  If one refuses to accept the Bible is what it claims to be (1 Cor. 2:11-12; Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Jude 3; etc.), then of necessity he or she must choose an alternate guide for life.  It is fair to evaluate that alternative with equal criticism and scrutiny.  Wisdom would seem to suggest choosing what best explains the whole picture–our complex design, moral compass, appreciation for beauty, universe’s order, and more.  What we are talking about are the very biggest issues of life! They deserve our deepest thought and wisest choice.