The Scandal Of The Savior

The Scandal Of The Savior

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Neal Pollard

On 14 occasions in his gospel record, Matthew uses a word from which we get our English word “scandal.” Arndt and his fellow lexicographers define the word as meaning “to cause to be brought to a downfall; to shock through word or action” (BDAG 926). Jesus was at times the cause of others experiencing anger or shock through what He said and did. While Jesus uses the word to condemn those whose words and actions cause themselves and others to stumble (5:29,30; 18:6,8-9), it more often refers to those who took offense at what He said or did. He was not a poor example or stumbling block. The problem for many was that what Jesus stood for and taught was unpopular, difficult, or contrary to fleshly desires. 

Does living the Christian life ever cause us to run the risk of being scandalous to the world? Share Jesus’ sexual ethics and expectations. Tell others Jesus’ exclusive salvation message. Stand up for His doctrine. Condemn what He would condemn. Any number of social causes celebrated in our society crash against the teaching of Jesus. When you stand with Him, you can expect the world (and sometimes even the weak among God’s people) to “take offense” (11:16; 13:57; 15:12; 26:31). 

We should never be a scandal because of unrighteous behavior (see those passages in chapters 5 and 18). We should never go out of our way to be offensive. But, we should know that walking with Jesus will lead us to scandalize some. What will comfort us is knowing that standing with the Scandalized Savior will keep Him from taking offense at us! Nothing is more important than that. 

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
We’re going through I Peter in the college class at Lehman Avenue and we most recently studied part of chapter three. This chapter further discusses the theme of submission (giving up our power willingly to another) frequently appearing throughout the book. Christians are essentially told, “It’s not about me,” that we should get rid of certain behaviors, and an explanation for why we give up certain behaviors or power is given.
 
For example, we should get rid of hatred, taking advantage of others, hypocrisy, jealousy, and character assassination (2.1), because we know that God has shown us mercy (2.9, 10). That’s hard. We should listen to our government, even when we disagree with them (as long as it doesn’t violate God’s word), because God uses them to maintain some semblance of law and order (2.13-17). That’s hard. We should be good employees, even when our bosses aren’t fair, because Christ suffered, too, and God looks at us favorably when we suffer for doing the right thing (2.18ff). That’s hard.
 
In the same way – that is, keeping with the theme of surrendering our own power and doing something difficult for the sake of goodness – Peter addresses women and men specifically in chapter three.
 
This is an interesting study because it sheds light on a controversial topic: wives being submissive to their husbands. Let’s look at the text:
 
  • Γυναίκες (wives/women): Submit to ιδιοις (your own) husbands. Not all men, just husbands. Peter is not saying that women are inferior and should submit for that reason.
  • Ινα (in order that): For the purpose of cultivating godliness and influencing a fallen husband. It’s not for the purpose of manifesting inferiority, but to influence a lost husband! This involves a difficult task – as in 2.18 – which demonstrates the power of the word.
  • Δια (through/by): γυναικών αναστροφής (womanly or “wifely” conduct). Through her submission to her husband and through an emphasis on timeless inner beauty, she can save his soul. “Men and women have different ways of expressing godliness. Peter is showing how women can powerfully influence their husbands, which is by submitting to them” (Edwin Jones).
 
This sensitive topic is nonetheless a powerful one. Wives are not told to submit because it’s “just what women should do,” or because of a belief that women are somehow inferior, but are told to submit because it can save souls. Men are told to assign value to their wives and to be respectful and considerate with them if they want to be right with God (3.7), followed by a general set of commands for all Christians to act a certain way for the sake of godliness (3.8ff).
 
We submit and suffer as Christians to save souls and to remember that, “It’s not about me.”
(Gary teaching 1 Peter in the college class at Lehman Avenue)
Kavachi

Kavachi

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
Scientists with National Geographic went near the Solomon Islands to study one of the most active underwater volcanos on earth. What they found in the hot, acidic waters of the volcano, surprisingly, was life – a couple species of sharks, stingray, and fish swimming among the plumes of ash. The risk for these fish is great, as Kavachi is known erupt frequently.
 
Churches are made up of people, and people are imperfect. No church is immune to the problem of evil, though we should certainly have a greater level of immunity to evil’s influence. When non-Christians interact with us, they may be unsure of what to expect. The world does not paint a pretty picture of our beliefs.
 
So, what will they find? They will ideally find a group of people who, despite the pervasive dysfunction of the world, display unconditional love, forgiveness, excellent character, patience, forgiveness, fairness, grace, resilience, and hope.
 
Christians should strive to pleasantly surprise the world! When they expect to find an environment that could never support healthy, loving, functional relationships, we should blow their minds with positive, life-changing interactions.
 
“Always keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they might see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (I Peter 2.12).
 
 
“Making Our Defense In The Darkness”

“Making Our Defense In The Darkness”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 
Gary III
Gary Pollard
 
One night Chelsea and I were walking the dog before bed and came across an enormous armadillo. We were in a rural area and it was pitch black outside except for her flashlight. I had a rifle with me, so I took a shot at the armadillo. Instead of falling where it stood (as they had usually done), this one jumped a couple feet into the air and then ran off with surprising speed.
 
We thought that was the end of it, so she walked the opposite direction with the flashlight and the dog. In the pitch black, I heard the angry armadillo heading towards me full-steam.
 
Being rushed by an armadillo in the dark is terrifying, no two ways around that. The darkness accentuates our helplessness and makes defense a lot harder. I John 2.11 makes it very clear that if we hate our church family, we’re walking in darkness and don’t know where we’re going because the darkness has blinded us. If we’re in darkness, we have no fellowship with Jesus and we’re liars (1.6).
 
2020 has given our mortal sides quite a bit of strain. We’re so divided as a nation that a person’s political party alone is enough to preclude their value in the eyes of their opposition. The church has to be different.
 
Had the moon not come out just a little and the laser on my optic not worked, I would have been cut up pretty good by that armadillo. Light gave me the means to save my skin!
 
If we show love to our church family and are walking in the light, we have been given the ability to be saved. If we live and die in the light, we gain an eternity where there is no night or darkness in a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21 ). As November 3rd looms ominously over us, let’s remember that our eternal destination hangs – at least partially – on how we treat one another after this stressful election.
“God’s Guidelines In Matters Of Judgment”

“God’s Guidelines In Matters Of Judgment”

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

In Romans 14, Paul emphasizes:

THREE FACTS ABOUT GOD

Even though Romans 14 is about the weak in faith and those who are stronger in faith, there is a decided emphasis on Deity–God’s acceptance (3), thanks to God (6), the judgment seat of God (10), praise to God (11), etc. The Lord is mentioned nine times while “Jesus” or “Christ” is mentioned several more times. Even when we have differences of opinions, we cannot forget about God’s presence and feelings. Another way to put any issue that would divide us is: “It’s all about God and not about us.” What are Paul’s three facts about God to help us here?

God Is Able To Make Our Brother Stand (4). Paul’s examples are about eating meat (3) and observing special days (5). Some did and some didn’t, and Paul says neither should judge the other’s Christianity on it for this reason. Each one is trying to please and follow the Lord the best they can (5-6). As long as they act from faith and not doubt on these judgment matters, they are not sinning (23).

God Is Lord Of All (9). We’ll be careful with each other’s convictions because we share the same Lord. We live for the Lord and die for the Lord; either way, we belong to the Lord (8). In all our political, social, and other earthly convictions, do we stop to remind ourselves abut this? We’re all on the same, level playing field as brethren, submitting to the same Lord. 

God Is Judge Of All (10-12). I don’t want to be my brother’s judge on anything, especially not things that are matters of judgment, opinion, and discretion. I’m also not qualified. If we get up at arms, let’s do so in defending God’s name and His authority. If we get worked up, let’s do so in seeking His glory and honor. 

THREE REMINDERS ABOUT THE CHURCH OF GOD

Jesus said His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). Christians are part of His kingdom first (Mat. 6:33), and it comes before politics, nation, race, etc. Romans 14 reveals three reminders about this kingdom. 

We Are Reminded That None Of Us Live Or Die To Ourselves (6-7). We are not an island to ourselves. What we do affects others. We’re keenly interested in how what we do affects others (cf. 1 Cor. 9:19-23). I consider how what I do affects you, and you are to do the same. That may come as a sacrifice to me, but I’m called to consider more than just me. 

We Are Reminded Of What The Kingdom Of God Is And Is Not (17). It’s easy for us to lose sight of our identity, mission, and work. If we forget who we are, why we’re here, or what we’re here to do, there’s trouble. At Rome, people were confused over what the kingdom of God was about. Paul says it is not about earthly stuff, stuff you can take or leave that is neither right nor wrong. The kingdom is righteousness, peace, and joy. Mastering this leads us to be acceptable to God and approved by men (18). By majoring in the majors and minoring in the minors, we’re most effective with God and men. 

We Are Reminded That We Pursue What Makes For Peace And Edification (19). I doubt the Lord was trying to make a bunch of doormats in Romans 14, but to think that way is to miss the point of following Jesus (cf. Mat. 20:25-28). We approach our personal convictions, and those of others, wanting harmony and preferring one another. 

THREE WARNINGS ABOUT THE PEOPLE OF GOD

Even as Paul emphasizes God’s supremacy and the church’s nature, he does not leave out how God wants us to treat each other over judgment matters.

Don’t Judge Each Other (13). We can redirect the energy it takes to try and read hearts and judge motives into trying to see through the eyes of others (1 Pet. 3:8-9). Peter gives a process. Be one, then you will see through others’ eyes, you’ll feel a sense of family, then you’ll be kind, humble, and so on. 

Don’t Destroy Each Other (15). Paul says don’t spiritually kill the brother Jesus died for. When we insist on our rights and our way, we are no longer walking in love. We’re supposed to be about building each other up. Disagreement can turn to resentment, and we start avoiding each other or being distant. Substitute “food” with “political party,” “pandemic issues,” “celebrating Christmas,” “new heavens and new earth,” “literal indwelling,” “representative indwelling,” and the like. The principle is unchanged. 

Don’t Tear Down God’s Work (20). The church may have more opportunities and open doors right now than at any time in our lifetime. Don’t think the devil isn’t bothered by that. He’d love for us to turn on each other. He’d love to see Christians dig deeper trenches of division. But of all people, God’s people should lead the way in genuine love, unity, compassion, and care. So, Paul says don’t tear down the work of God for the sake of things that won’t matter in eternity. Causing others to stumble is a problem because it can tear down God’s family. Follow your own convictions (22), but don’t equate them with God’s law!

“Praying The Scriptures”

“Praying The Scriptures”

MONDAY’S COLUMN: NEAL AT THE CROSS

Neal at ATF 2020

Neal Pollard

Yesterday morning, Chuck Raymer prayed an especially beautiful prayer, well-thought-out and earnest, but also filled with quotations of Bible verses or parts of them (near the beginning, he quoted Psalm 100:3)(his prayer begins at about 6:30 of the recording on YouTube of yesterday morning’s service: It starts here). My good friend and former co-worker in Colorado, Corey Sawyers, would often adapt the words of an entire psalm and pray it as he led us in the assemblies. There is something especially powerful about prayers that are Scripture quotations. It’s certainly something biblical.

In Acts 4:23, Peter and John, after having been released from being held by the Jews for preaching Jesus, met with the Jerusalem congregation. They lifted their voices to God with one accord and addressed Him. In their brief prayer (note verse 31), they quoted Exodus 20:11 (also found in Nehemiah and Psalms) and Psalm 2:1-2. They were so full of the Word that it came out even in their prayers. Look at the Levites who led Judah in prayer in Nehemiah 9:4-37. Much at that prayer quotes passages and events found in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament). Most powerfully of all, Jesus prayed Scripture at a more difficult moment than any other human being will ever face (Mark 15:34). The praying prophet, Daniel, turned to God in prayer being moved by the words of Jeremiah (Dan. 9:2-3). How will it help us to pray the Scriptures in our own lives, whether in publicly leading prayer or in our private devotional lives?

IT LETS THE GOD WE WANT TO HEAR US KNOW THAT WE ARE LISTENING TO HIM.

Certainly, God knows His Word, but so does He know our every innermost thought, desire, and need. But, there is something about addressing God by including great truth from His Word that can really enrich those prayers. It tells Him we are mindful of His will even as we seek to influence it. 

IT BUILDS OUR FAITH IN THE TRUTH AND PROMISES OF HIS WORD.

Repetition is not just the key to learning, but it can also greatly aid our comprehension and retention. As you pray Scripture, you help reinforce those promises and truths. You will actually be reflecting on them as you pray it back to God. 

IT HELPS US TO APPLY THE WORD TO OUR DAILY LIVES.

Scripture can become more real and meaningful as we make verbalize it in prayer. It can take incidents and teachings in Scriptures and directly apply those verses to what we are going through. So often, we are going through the same exact types of things men and women of the Bible were going through. How can it be more practical than this: “Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Psa. 119:11)?

There are probably several more reasons why we should quote and allude to Scripture in our prayer lives, but these are at least a few. You will certainly never say anything more truthful and right in your prayers than God’s Word. You will also be walking in some very righteous footprints, of those in Scripture who prayed Scripture back to God. 

Not So Common Courtesy 

Not So Common Courtesy 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

The folks at Merriam-Webster define “common courtesy” as “politeness that people can usually be expected to show.” 1 One notes that courtesy doesn’t seem as ordinary as it once was, at least in the West. In the more collectivist societies of the East, people prize social harmony more than individualism. When you have millions of people packed into a metropolis, I suppose such a mindset is essential for survival. However, it translates into an attitude that suggests that I take great care not to upset or inconvenience the people around me. 

I got to thinking about common courtesy as I was driving along a stretch of U.S. 129/U.S. 19 in the northeast Georgia mountains. Since slower traffic is expected, especially during tourist season, planners provided periodic passing lanes to allow for those conducting everyday business to pass the leaf-gawkers. For the spaces in between, these planners likewise added pull-offs for slower vehicles to pull off and let the faster traffic get by. Most of the time, this traffic arrangement works out nicely. However, you do encounter the occasional driver who lacks the aforementioned common courtesy, as I did when recently getting stuck behind a truck pulling a horse trailer hauling several horses.   

As Christians, we are to extend courtesy as a matter of faith. Paul tells us that we are to esteem others before self and be as mindful of them as ourselves (Philippians 2.3-4). As lovely as that is when taking an earthly journey, we see how the mindset also benefits the heavenly journey. No, I am not saying that the act of utilizing a pull-off will win a lost soul to Christ. What I am suggesting, though, is that people take notice of how we conduct ourselves. As Edgar Guest famously stated, people desire sermons they can see. Since a courteous person is already mindful of others, it is but an extra step for him or her to adopt a servant’s heart. Note that following his admonition to esteem others first, Paul transitions to telling us about needing the servant-mind of Christ (Philippians 2.5-8). 

With whom are you more likely to strike up a conversation? A rude person or a courteous one? Through the extension of common courtesy, you make yourself more amiable to others. And since common courtesy is no longer so common, you stand a better chance of making yourself stand out in a crowd. So, go the extra mile (cf. Matthew 5.38-42). Develop habits contributing to becoming more courteous and foster the heart of a servant within you.  

WORKS CITED 

1 “Common courtesy.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/common%20courtesy. Accessed 1 Oct. 2020. 

Can Others See the Christ In You?

Can Others See the Christ In You?

Brent Pollard

Once I preferred laptops, but since the advent of Android and Apple tablets, I migrated back to the desktop PC. When attempting to accomplish work, there is something to be said for sitting at a dedicated workspace to help productivity. Even so, I usually choose desktop wallpaper to reflect my interests from the religious to whimsical. My capricious nature typically ensures that wallpaper is changed frequently.  

One day after having selected an artist’s rendering of the Christ wearing a crown of thorns for my wallpaper, I noted how I had allowed the desktop of my PC to become cluttered with icons and files. Though they made finding things more manageable, they obscured the image I had chosen for my inspiration. I had to do some cleaning so that I could once again see Christ! 

Spiritually, I feel as if we sometimes equally “mask” the presence of the Christ in our lives. It is not our intention to do so, of course. We are just going about our regular business. Yet, there comes the point in out lives in which we begin doing what we feel is most convenient, despite what this “convenience” does to the presence of the Christ in our lies. Soon, others are unable to readily see the Christ in our lives since He has become obscured by our ephemera. If this persists, others will be unable to see Him at all.  

When this happens, it is time to clean up or bring order to the chaos. One needs to put things in their proper place so that the image of Christ becomes accentuated rather than obscured (cf. Matthew 6.33). It may take a bit of work, but the effort is worth more than anything else in this world because of its eternal implications. 

Dear reader, are others able to see the Christ in your life? If not, perhaps it is time for spiritual cleansing. The only thing equal to the task, great or small, is the blood of Jesus Christ. For the one having never clothed him or herself in Christ (Galatians 3.27), baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38). For the immersed believer, the blood of Christ continuously cleanses us as we walk in fellowship with Him and fellow Christians (1 John 1.7).  

Check your image in the spiritual mirror (James 1.22-25). If you cannot see the Christ, rest assured others cannot see Him either. Let us always strive so others can see the Christ in us.   

How To Be Worthy

How To Be Worthy

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Nothing is worse than washing your hands only to find that there aren’t any more paper towels. A paper towel roll with no towels is completely worthless. You can’t dry your hands with the roll (trust me I’ve tried), and you’re left feeling grumpy as you wipe your hands on your clothes.
 
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus tells us that we “are the salt of the earth.” Why are we given this description? The Greek word for salt is “halas” and its definition will blow your mind…it means salt. Jesus is talking about literal salt, so why would He tell us that we are a high sodium white crystalline substance? Salt adds flavor, it preserves food, and in small amounts can fertilize land. The Christian is salt because we add flavor to the world in the form of the gospel. We are able to preserve people’s souls through Christ. We help people grow with the help of God’s Word. That’s our job. We are the salt of the earth.
 
But what happens if we lose our flavor? We become worthless. Salt loses flavor when it comes in contact with moisture. If we become exposed to the world and let it take away our Christianity, what are we good for? We can’t add flavor, preserve, or even be fit to throw on some dirt. A paper towel roll with no towels does nothing. It can no longer be used for the purpose it was made for. The Christian who doesn’t live for Christ is deserting their purpose, and God sees them as worthless.
 
What are we showing the world? Are we carrying out our duty as followers of Christ? Don’t let it be said of us that we have lost our flavor. Don’t let God look at our life and say it is worthless to Him.
Your Impact

Your Impact

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bomb itself, compared to the city, was quite small; the devastation is still at the front of many minds today.

There is a lot of evidence on earth of multiple meteor impacts. It is chilling to watch re-creations of how those impacts would have affected the earth. A meteor just six miles across has the potential ability to destroy most of this planet, which is 24,901 miles in circumference. So, something just 0.024% of earth’s size can potentially destroy it entirely.

This country has 321,400,000 people. The church makes up about 0.03% of the US Population. We are ahead of meteors in terms of our ability to make an unforgettable impact.

It is far too easy for us to think, “I’m just one person,” or, ”We’re just a couple hundred people in a community of thousands,” but God can do mind-blowing things with just one person. With His Son, He gave all humanity across eons of time the ability to be saved. With just 12 apostles, the church grew into a global fellowship. With just one faithful Christian, an entire community of lost souls can be reached.

When a meteor strikes the earth, it’s not the crater that creates such devastation: it is what happens afterward. Maybe you convert just one soul. That soul turns around and converts his/her family. That family reaches out to their connections and shares their newfound faith. Before you know it, hundreds of lost souls are now in Christ. All because of the effort of one person to convert one soul!

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).

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