The Struggles Of The Righteous

The Struggles Of The Righteous

(Pinch Hitting For Brent, Who Is Sick)

(This is from today’s Lehman Learner)

Neal Pollard

Perhaps Jeremiah seemed to be mean, harsh, even unloving, to his brethren. His message is certainly what we could categorize as negative, but we remind ourselves that its source was God. What may get lost in Jeremiah’s challenging message is how it affected him to share it. Chapter nine is full of the struggles he endured in being God’s spokesman with a message of divine judgment.

Jeremiah endured mourning (1). While Judah would be hypercritical and threatening toward Jeremiah for his message, they had him all wrong. He did not relish his unpleasant message. He would have preferred to have kept his mouth closed (20:9). They had no idea of how his mission was wearing on him. He writes, “Oh that my head were waters And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” He knew that they were hurting themselves by their lifestyle, and he wanted them to escape judgment. It can be heartbreaking work to share God’s word on any number of unpleasant, unpopular subjects. No rational preacher, elder, or teacher is excited to share such a message, but it must be done (2 Tim. 4:2).  Jeremiah is rightly called the “weeping prophet” (8:18; 13:17; Lam. 2:18). Revealing this was an emotional struggle.

Jeremiah endured isolation  (2). The pressures of sharing a message nobody wanted to hear created inevitable isolation. He felt alone and like nobody understood or cared. He longs to escape such disappointing, unrighteous behavior. He wanted to run like Jonah. He felt alone like Elijah. It can go with the business of declaring God’s message. There are times when you may feel like you are standing all alone, but you never will if you are sharing God’s word God’s way. He will never leave you (Mat. 28:20; Heb. 13:6). 

Jeremiah endured disillusionment (3-6). He expected more and better from his brethren. They knew better, but they were guilty of treachery and adultery (2), lies and deceit (3,5-6), ignorance (3), violence (4), slander (5), and general iniquity (5). Have you ever overheard someone you looked up to use foul language or stumbled upon someone doing something sinful? It’s like a punch in the gut. But imagine a congregation full of people doing what God through Jeremiah reports. It had to have been discouraging and caused feelings of hopelessness. 

Jeremiah endured a sinking realization (7-11). What was the cost of this? Sin is not without consequences (Gal. 6:7-8; Hos. 8:7; Prov. 6:26). At the heart of God’s message was this rhetorical question: “Shall I not punish them for these things?” (9). Jeremiah knew what was coming. There would be weeping, wailing, and dirges (funeral songs)(10).  Judah would be ruined and desolate (11). Jeremiah knew this ahead of time. Whatever normalcy he witnessed each morning and evening, he knew that would ultimately change. The fact of judgment looms over the horizon of time. It will be a day of rejoicing for the righteous and prepared, but not for the rest of humanity. The people of Judah were not ready for this judgment, and Jeremiah knew that. 

Jeremiah endured being overwhelmed (12-16). The message gets specific about the nature of what was coming. It was going to be more devastating than any of them had experienced. Because of their stubborn rebellion, they would be scattered and annihilated. Hope belongs to the penitent, but there’s just no good news for those who are determined to oppose God’s way.  

Jeremiah endured unpleasant duty (17-22). God tells Jeremiah to call for mourning, wailing, and tears (17-19). He is help them focus on their shame (19).  The heart of the message was death (20-22). Don’t you think Jeremiah would have loved to have spoken of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, and blessings? But the circumstances did not call for that. Jeremiah had to be faithful to God’s message. Like Micaiah, every faithful spokesman for God should say, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I shall speak” (1 Ki. 22:14). 

There is a ray of hope starting in 9:23. Amid the folly of idolatry, there will be a reminder of the wonderful, perfect character of God in chapter ten. But even here, there is encouragement for God’s faithful servant. It was a message for the worldly wise, for the mighty man, and for the wealthy (23) not to trust in those things, but to trust in Him. Everyone should boast of knowing and understanding God, that He is “the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things” (24). Punishment was for the spiritually uncircumcised (25-26). It was not for the faithful, like His man Jeremiah. Whatever we have to struggle through for the Savior, may we know that God will be with us through thick and thin. He has not left us alone. He will always be with us, help us, and strengthen us! Declaring His word is right, and He will not let us lose for being unswervingly loyal to it and Him! 

The Joy Of A Christian

The Joy Of A Christian

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Joy is a decision based on knowledge. It is a choice we can make. 

You can have joy in every moment of life if you choose to do so. We won’t always feel happy, but joy is a trait that goes deeper than emotions. It is a feeling of hope because of salvation. As a saved child of God, you can have joy in the knowledge of Christ, the church, and an eternity with God. 

We all know people that are joyful 24/7. No matter what happens they seem to always look on the bright side. On the other hand, I’m sure you can think of someone that’s always down. They can always find something to complain about. They could have a perfect life and still be looking for something negative to dwell on. Two people can go through the same situation and have two completely different reactions. 

As Christians we should be people of joy. Why? Because we have every reason to be joyful! But what about having joy in tribulation? How can we be joyful when our world comes crashing down around us? We need to remember that joy isn’t the same as happiness. Joy comes from an understanding of the bigger picture. Happiness is short term and based on current events. 

The faithful Christian can go through heartache and feel sadness, but still have joy in the bigger picture. We can face trials, no matter what they are, and still have joy because we know this world is not our home. James 1:2 says “count it all joy when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

We can have joy in knowing that if we face trials with endurance, we will ultimately receive the greatest reward we could ever get. This kind of joy isn’t something that comes naturally. It takes time to develop, and trials to perfect it. 

Not every day will be a happy day, but in Christ every day can be joyful. 

2 Peter (Part One)

2 Peter (Part One)

Thursday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

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

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

Introduction

This is from Simon Peter. I’m a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ and one of his apostles. I’m writing to everyone who has a faith that’s just as valuable as ours. Your faith is just as valuable because it also came from the perfection of our God and rescuer Jesus Christ. My wish for you is that you enjoy grace and peace because you know God and Jesus, our master. 

JesusHelpedYouEscape

We have everything we need to be alive and live a morally good life thanks to him. His power made that possible! We have everything we need because of our relationship with him. He called us to his family because he is amazing and perfect. He’s made some incredible promises to us. Those promises were designed to give us access to his nature. We have access because we’ve escaped a worldly lifestyle characterized by unhealthy desires. Since we’ve escaped, make sure you back your faith with moral goodness. Once you have moral goodness, expand your knowledge of God. That knowledge should lead to self-control. Self-control should lead to endurance. Endurance should lead to godliness. Godliness should lead to good relationships with each other, which should lead to love. If you are growing in these areas, you can’t be described as useless or unproductive in your relationship with our master, Jesus Christ. If you don’t have these qualities, you’re blind or shortsighted because you’ve forgotten that your record was cleared. 

Losing A Shoe, Winning The Race

Losing A Shoe, Winning The Race

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Before a track meet in Omaha, Nebraska, the first Saturday of this month, Terence “Bud” Crawford was most renowned for his perfect 38-0 record as a professional boxer. His unblemished record includes 29 knockouts, but he, then later millions more, saw his seven-year-old daughter deliver the most unlikely knockout blow many of us have seen. Little Talaya ran out of her shoe at the starting block, then fell behind the rest of the pack by 20 meters in this 200 meter race while she put it back on. Not only did she not give up, she stormed back and won the race with seconds to spare. She has aptly with words like grit, determination, and undaunted. Heroic and inspiring have also been bandied about. Perhaps her drive not to lose comes from her father, but she certainly reflected well on him (ESPN report here).

The Bible refers to life as running a race (Heb. 12:1). Paul urges us to run in order to win (1 Cor. 9:24). He was concerned about running in vain (Gal. 2:2). He was determined to finish the course (2 Tim. 4:7). While Paul and the writer of Hebrews describe a race that sounds more like a marathon than a couple hundred yards, it will require all the more grit and determination to successfully complete. There will be encumbrances and entanglements. Whether problems or pressures, things will happen that can bring us to a standstill. In those moments, we may be tempted to quit. Those are the times we can remember our Father and reflect His ways! In our case, He’s not just watching! He can help us win.

Are you discouraged? Do you feel defeated? Maybe it’s something someone has done to you. Maybe it’s something you have done. Whatever it is, perhaps you feel it’s useless to go on. By getting back on track, you may not only win the race yourself but inspire so many others through your successful finish! Don’t give up! The reward is worth the effort. “In the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:8).

“Trust The Process”

“Trust The Process”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

In the lead up to the College Football Playoff National Championship, I have read a few articles about tonight’s game. More than once, the players and coaches have talked about the need to “trust the process.” That idea applies to the entire program, to the season, to preparing for every game including this last one, to both sides of the ball, down to the individual player’s preparation for this game. “The process” is comprised of every fundamental principle intended to bring about the highest success. There will be trying moments and setbacks, even failures. But when the tendency to doubt is the greatest, it is then that you most need to “trust the process.”

They say that athletics are a metaphor for life. The inspired apostle Paul thought so. Long before Nick Saban or Kirby Smart and their players used the mantra, the first-century native of Tarsus was teaching the idea in the Bible. Here is how he put it, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops” (2 Tim. 2:3-6). No, he does not say, “Trust the process.” He gives it instead: Endure, focus, follow the rules, and work hard. Just as coaches use metaphors, making comparisons to chopping wood, flying the plane, rowing the boat, etc., Paul refers to the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer to illustrate principles in the process of living the Christian life.

Our goal is the enjoy ultimate success. The Bible defines that as overcoming the world (Jn. 16:33; 1 Jn. 4:4; 5:4; Re. 2:7,11,17, etc.). There are times this is very difficult, but at all times we must “trust the process.” Trust the process…

  • When you are encountering various trials (Js. 1:2ff). 
  • When you are aiming at church growth (Acts 2:42-47).
  • When you are combatting temptation (Js. 4:7-8).
  • When you are offended or have offended (Mt. 5:23-24; 18:15-17).
  • When you are trying to win back a fallen brother (Gal. 6:1-2). 
  • When you are seeking to follow Jesus (Lk. 9:23-26).
  • When you are working on your marriage (Eph. 5:22-33).
  • When you are running the marathon of childrearing (Eph. 6:1-4; Dt. 6:4-9).
  • When you are building your relationship with God (Ps. 1; Col. 3:1ff).
  • When you are shepherding the flock (1 Pt. 5:1-4; Acts 20:28).
  • When you are dealing with prosperity (1 Ti. 6:17-19) or poverty (Js. 1:9-12).
  • When you are struggling with sins of the tongue (Js. 3:1-12).
  • When you are wondering if it’s worth it to keep going (2 Tim. 4:1-8).
  • When you are being persecuted for your faith or for no good reason at all (Mt. 5:38-48).

In other words, whatever our specific struggle, problem, difficulty, or trial, God has given us a proven process. How many, through the ages, have overcome and won simply because they trusted it? As a loyal, long-suffering fan of the guys in red and black, I am hoping their overall process ends a 41-year drought. If it doesn’t, life will go on. As you follow Jesus, I am hoping that by trusting the process found throughout Scripture you win the crown of eternal life (Js. 1:12). When all is said and done, that is all that matters! 

What I am hoping, not predicting.
It’s Not Too Far Away  

It’s Not Too Far Away  

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

The farthest anybody has ever run on foot happened back in 1929. A trans-continental race was set from New York to California and it spanned 3,653 miles in total. It’s difficult to imagine that anybody would be willing to sign up for this race but there were. The winning place went to a man named Johnny Salo and he accomplished something spectacular and historic in just 79 days. 

In 1 Peter 2.11-12 the Christian is compared to a “sojourner” and that paints a picture of someone temporarily staying, but always on the move. Many other passages, like James 1.12, 2 Timothy 4.7, Galatians 5, and 2 Corinthians 9, all reference the race of life. 

It’s been noted that the race is one of endurance and not a sprint. While few people will ever cover the amount of physical ground that Johnny Salo did, there are many faithful Christians who have shown themselves to have incredible endurance of a different kind. Through trials, heartbreak, and severe loss there are Christians who hold fast to their faith and push on. They inspire us to keep going when the going gets tough, and we should encourage these spiritual athletes to look towards the finish line— it’s not too far away. 

THE ADVANTAGES OF ADVERSITY 

THE ADVANTAGES OF ADVERSITY 

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Safari 2017

Neal Pollard

Since March Madness begins later this week, I was reading about all the teams to help me fill out my brackets. I came across the incredible story of Damian Chong Qui, a guard for the Mount St. Mary’s basketball team that won the Northeast Conference tournament and will play Texas Southern for the right to play against Michigan. The odds of Mount St. Mary’s winning the NCAA tournament are so astronomical that the team is more likely to be hit by an asteroid in their team bus going to the arena to play, but Chong Qui symbolizes the team’s grit, determination, and uncanny ability to defy the odds. His story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. Born and raised in crime-riddled East Baltimore, his father and mother were shot in separate incidents less than two months apart in 2002, when he was only four. His father recovered, but his mother was murdered. Eight years later, his father was shot again and paralyzed from the waist down. Damian has been his father’s most consistent caregiver since then, dressing him and helping him into his wheelchair. Damian found an outlet in basketball, starting on his High School basketball team as a freshman. He was only 4 feet, 9 inches tall. A growth spurt helped him reach his current height of 5 feet, 8 inches tall. No Division One teams showed interest, so he walked on with the Mountaineers. Not only did he go on to earn a scholarship, but he is a star and the heart and soul of this scrappy squad. From his father to coaches and teammates, Damian is called dependable, hardworking, and focused (much biographical data from a 1/17/20 Baltimore Sun article by Edward Lee: “…Damian Chong Qui has overcome tragedy to shine at Mount St. Mary’s”). 

There is no one who would want to go through what this young man has endured. Many might use such tragedy as an excuse or a crutch to let life defeat them, but Chong Qui shows the resiliency and resolve which is in mankind. While the Chong Quis do not sound especially devout, Damian’s father, Edward, said of him, “I feel like God has been working things out for him” (ibid.). 

God does not cause evil (Jas. 1:13), but God is able to bring about good in the worst of circumstances. It is evidence of His omnipotence and omniscience. Do you remember Job’s wise and righteous assessment, even as he was in the dark about the cause of his pain and suffering? He tells God, “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted” (42:2). As James assesses Job’s situation, he writes, “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (5:11). Paul experienced this, too. He speaks of his “thorn in the flesh,” which God saw fit to allow him to retain. Why? Paul explains, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9-10). 

Maybe you are struggling with some thorn in the flesh, some pain and suffering, some adverse circumstance that looms over you and seems poised to undo you. How will you respond? Will you see it as an advantage? A chance for God’s power to be perfected in weakness? For the power of Christ to dwell in you? As the means of strength in weakness? Do not forget that there is no force, earthly or spiritual, that can withstand the advantages that God can bring into your life even in times of greatest adversity! His purpose cannot be thwarted. And if our lives are being lived according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28), that is confidence that can propel us through the worst of situations! 

Damian Chong Qui

Life Illustrated 

Life Illustrated 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

DaleandJanelledirectorypic

Dale Pollard

Contentment In Life 

As a young boy I can clearly remember the feelings I had in school. I was ready to be done with text books, math, science, and all the other trials and tribulations that I felt were too much for me to bear. I longed for the day when I could set my own bedtime, go where I wanted to go, spend money on whatever I wanted, and be looked at as an adult. I wish there was still a once-hated nap time scheduled in my daily life. My life, like many others, consisted of school and play, yet I looked forward to a future life that my young heart deemed better. It’s not better and it’s not worse— rather I’m just faced with new challenges that come with a new stage in life. We look forward to the future, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we are content with the present. Older couples will often state how fast the time has gone! Parents will look back on the years that flew by and always seem to ask the question, “Where did the time go?” Every hour was sixty seconds, every day was twenty four hours, and every year was a full three hundred and sixty five days. Our bodies run down, our hair turns gray, and our problems don’t end– they just differ from chapter to chapter. We are all living a vapor of a life, then off to eternity! When the dust settles over our caskets, when friends and family leave the cemetery, when they move on with their lives, what is left behind is our legacy and the impact we made. If life is a vapor and eternity is endless, our focus should be on the latter.

Endurance In Life 

Wilbur Wright was playing ice hockey as a young man when one of the players struck him in the mouth with his hockey stick. Wilbur Wright, who was known for being outgoing and articulate, had plans to teach at Yale college. The complications with his injury made him give up that dream and go into a depression. The man that gave him the injury was known as the neighborhood bully, and it is speculated that he did this to Wilbur on purpose. That bully later on became addicted to cocaine and eventually he was discovered to be a mass murderer. He killed sixteen people after reading the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because he related to Mr. Hyde. Wilbur, despite an unfair and unplanned accident, went on to invent the first motorized airplane and change the world forever. Bad things happen to good people, but we have a choice on how we respond and what we chose to do next.

The Last Blink 

God created the world in 6 days. 144 hours. 8,640 minutes. 518,400 seconds. But He’ll come back and end it all in the blink of an eye. Just like that time is gone and everybody is sent into eternity. Though it’s a figure of speech, the average human can blink in 3/10ths of a second. God made “the blink” that quick so you could close your eye quickly enough to protect it from debris, bright bright light, and to illustrate for us the way He’ll return.

800px-orville_wilbur_wright
Wilbur Wright (right)

Spiritual Maintenance

Spiritual Maintenance

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Since being mainly confined to home, we’ve had a lot more time to do outdoor activities. One of those activities (besides mowing and building a chicken house) has been target practice and clay shooting. Not only has it been an enjoyable activity, it has also been a great way to spend time with family and engage in some friendly competition.
After the range is cold and we’re ready to stop, the process of cleaning our guns begins. Some don’t require as much cleaning as others, but all of them get a brush, cleaning rod, and some lubricant. This helps to prevent wear and tear in the long term, but it also prevents build-up from causing malfunctions or damage next time. It’s not always the most enjoyable activity but is necessary anyway.
It’s far too easy to get caught up in the concerns of life (especially now!), to the neglect of our spiritual maintenance. Most of us are currently unable to worship physically with our spiritual family. We have had to cancel many of our church events and get-togethers. We are more-or-less confined to our homes. Financial and health concerns are at the front line of our minds.
If we don’t stay on top of our spiritual maintenance while this craziness is going on, all kinds of nastiness will build up in our lives. While the world is more or less halted, are we continuing to be tools for good? Have we used some of this time to inspect our spiritual well-being? This is such a great opportunity to do a self-checkup using scripture to clean parts of our lives that need to be removed.
As stated earlier, cleaning guns is not exactly exhilarating. It can be painstaking, monotonous, dirty, and time consuming. If it isn’t done, though, it will lead to premature wear and tear and malfunctions.
Breaking sinful behaviors, leaving our uncertainties in God’s hands, confronting our spiritual struggles, resolving doubts in our faith, repairing relationships that we have damaged, and working towards tangible growth in our spiritual lives can be far from exciting or fun. These things require effort, discomfort, confrontation, and dedication. While not the most pleasant in the moment, they will help us to be the best that we can be.
When we do our spiritual maintenance we become better encouragers, better soul-winners, better friends/family, and we develop strong endurance. Our goal in all of this is to reduce the wear and tear of our spiritual lives by living like Jesus. This kind of maintenance will allow us to do more than last a while – properly maintaining our spiritual lives and relying on God’s grace will cause us to last for eternity with Him.
gun kit
Your Favorite Pair Of Shoes?

Your Favorite Pair Of Shoes?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

Growing up, I heard my dad preach a sermon comparing different type of shoes to various people’s religious attitudes. You can imagine the application of such shoe types as the slipper, the loafer, the work boot, the Sunday shoe, the combat boot, etc. It was a clever illustration to encourage everyone to live a faithful Christian life and avoid a mentality that hurts the church.

Do you have a favorite kind of shoe? I’d venture to guess that you even have a favorite pair or couple of pairs of shoes. Usually, you’ll find me either in a pair of cowboy boots or in a pair of running shoes. What goes into why you favor a pair of shoes? Quality? Style? Comfort? 

To make a spiritual point by referring to footwear is more ancient than my dad’s efforts to do so. No less than the apostle Paul referred to “having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15). Indirectly, Isaiah and Paul give attention to this very idea by complimenting the “beautiful feet” of those who bring good news of good things (Isa. 52:7; Rom. 10:15). 

You would think, to borrow dad’s analogy, that some “shoes,” figuratively, shouldn’t be adorned as part of our Christian armor. Flip-flops aren’t good (Jas. 1:8). Neither are skate shoes (Rom. 12:11; Col. 3:23). Camouflage boots can be a liability (Rom. 12:2). It would seem counterproductive for a preacher or teacher to favor tap dancing shoes (2 Tim. 4:3), since our responsibility is to stand firm (Eph. 6:11,13,14). 

Staying with the analogy, some shoes are excellent if used according to their design. Running shoes are essential to running the Christian race (1 Cor. 9:24,26; Heb. 12:1), but not to run in vain (Gal. 2:2; Phil. 2:16), run with sinners to sin (1 Pet. 4:4), or run after false teachers (Luke 17:23). Work boots can be misused in prioritizing occupation and career over the kingdom, but when used in the exercise of our talents and resources to grow the kingdom they are worn well (Mat. 5:16; 9:37-38). 

You get the idea, and you can no doubt add to the analogy with your own ideas. But, spiritually, what is your favorite pair of shoes? John the Baptist suggests that Jesus, like most all others of His day, wore sandals (Mark 1:7). John felt unworthy to even untie them. Yet, Peter, later on, would say “follow in His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). Jesus’ shoes carried Him to Samaria to minister to the woman at the well. They presumably walked on water. They took Him to Lazarus’ tomb. He doubtless wore them as He ascended the mountain to preach the greatest sermon ever delivered. Was He permitted to wear them as He carried His cross to Calvary? 

We aren’t qualified and worthy to be in His shoes, but, as the song suggests, we must be “trying to walk in the steps of the Savior.” Another hymn avers, “Where He leads me, I will follow.” Our favorite shoes should be the ones revealing the footsteps of Jesus. We follow Him and anyone can follow us (1 Cor. 11:1). They will help us walk in good works (Eph. 2:10), in a worthy manner (Eph. 4:1), in love (Eph. 5:2), and carefully (Eph. 5:15). 

pythonboots