Putting In Money Or Putting In More?

Putting In Money Or Putting In More?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

TODAY’S ARTICLE IS REPRODUCED FROM YESTERDAY’S LEHMAN LEARNER. I EMAIL AN EXPOSITORY STUDY OF A SECTION OF A BIBLE BOOK EACH MORNING. YOU CAN SUBSCRIBE AT “LEHMANOFFICECOC@GMAIL.COM.”

S.J. Friesen, in a book edited by Susan R. Holman entitled Wealth and Poverty in Early Church and Society. Holy Cross Studies in Patristic Theology and History (2008), reveals at least seven categories or classes in imperial Rome. This would have certainly applied to Jesus’ day. From top to bottom, they were:

  • Imperial elites (0.04% of society)
  • Regional or provincial elites (1%)
  • Municipal elites (1.76%)
  • Moderate surplus resources (7% estimated)
  • Stable near subsistence level with reasonable hope of remaining above the minimum level to sustain life (22% estimated)
  • At subsistence level and often below minimum level to sustain life (40%)
  • Below subsistence level (28%) (p. 19-20)

In that lowest category were included beggars, the disabled, unskilled day laborers, prisoners, and unattached widows. 

So the woman we meet in Mark 12:41-44 was on the bottom rung of society. Typically, every day was a fight for survival and full of uncertainty about meeting the basic needs of life. She had no advocates, champions, and could have been the target of unscrupulous men if she had a house or anything her husband had left her. Just before Jesus calls attention to the widow in our text, He had condemned the scribes for at least five offenses. The fourth was that they “devour widows’ houses” (40), for which “they will receive the greater condemnation” (40). Was the widow in these verses one of their victims?

What we know is that she enters the alms area of the temple in the court of women carrying “two small copper coins, which make a penny” (42). He makes no judgment on the contributions made by the wealthy, but holds up the woman as a contrast to the scribes and any who practiced pretentious religion.

She gives unpretentiously. She does not draw attention to herself. She quietly slips in the two coins. It is because Jesus is omniscient and observant that He is aware of her gift. She did not make any announcements or ask for any prayer requests, that God help her since she was giving everything to God. It was an assuming moment in time that might have passed unnoticed but for Jesus. 

She gives sacrificially. Many rich people put in large sums (41), yet Jesus says they contributed out of their abundance (44). However much they gave, they could continue their lifestyle at the same rate and pace as before their gift. But she “put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (44). The Macedonians were great givers, who “according to their ability, and beyond their ability gave of their own accord” (2 Cor. 8:3). As incredible as that is, this poor widow gave more. Only Jesus could exceed her gift (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9). 

She gives abundantly. Jesus signifies this by saying she gave more than the rich that day (43). It was not a competition to her, a cause for swelling pride. We will suggest her motive in a moment, but the consequence of her gift was that it was unmatched generosity. Those whose giving cost them something know the fulness of heart and the favor of God this woman must have felt. What a challenge!

She gives trustingly. Mark does not tell us this. In fact, neither does Luke (21:1-4). But what other conclusion can we draw? She gave God all she had to live on. Do we suppose that she left the temple, curled up in a ball, and died of starvation and exposure? Is that how God has ever responded to those who give in faith? Has anyone ever out-given God? That does not mean that God moved her up a rung or two in society because of her gift. That is a very materialistic way to view this account. Instead, the way she gave was inseparably joined to the way she lived. She gave with reckless abandon, left only with a confidence that God would be her protector. Had she heard that day or at some point the words of the psalmist, “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous; The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked” (146:5-9)? She seemed to know the source of her help and hope, her administrator of justice, provisions, and support. She gave accordingly.

Next Sunday, we will make an offering as part of our worship. Across 2,000 years, Jesus holds up this widow to challenge us. Will we give like her, unpretentiously, sacrificially, abundantly, and trustingly? If we do, will He cause us to suffer? That is the mental battleground upon which we all stand. May He help us successfully fight that battle. 

An Attitude Of Gratitude

An Attitude Of Gratitude

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Justin Lohden

Gratefulness is defined as warm and deep appreciation for kindness received; gratitude or thankfulness. Something that my family has to work on continually is an attitude of gratefulness. In today’s world, teaching our children gratefulness can sometimes be challenging not only for them but also for us. Have you ever met individuals who constantly complain and seem ungrateful? More specifically, have you ever met Christians who constantly complain and seem ungrateful? I would dare to say most of us try to avoid certain people because you know they are probably going to be complaining about something. Regarding church, do you ever catch yourself complaining about elders’ decisions, something the preacher might have said, or the temperature in the church building? I know I do sometimes! So, what causes a spirit of complaining or ungratefulness? Could it be a lack of faith? Maybe selfishness? In my opinion, they both can cause ungratefulness. For example, we have several accounts in the Old Testament of the Israelites complaining! In Numbers 21:5 we read, They spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” God had just delivered them Egyptian bondage and they still showed a lack of faith and ungratefulness.

Sometimes our selfishness can create an attitude of ungratefulness. We sometimes just want our way or want more and more which can lead to a complaining or ungrateful attitude. There’s no doubt God has blessed our country economically but sometimes that may lead to contentment problems. We have to be careful not to fall in the trap of wanting more and more. Contentment can help produce gratefulness. Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-12, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content:  I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” We know that Paul was in prison when he wrote this. Can you imagine being in prison and speaking of contentment? Then what about us? Surely, we can learn to be content and grateful for the things that we have by Paul’s example.

On top of everything else God doesn’t seem to be a big fan of complaining nor did He take it lightly. In Numbers 11:1 we read, “And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD about their misfortunes, and when the LORD heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.” Grumbling can be a problem. None of us are above the temptation to murmur or complain, but we need to learn from the book of Numbers that this is a serious issue with God. He sent fire to consume some, swallowed up others with the earth, and sent fiery serpents among the people, all because of complaining!

The Bible also has many verses that touch on the subject of gratitude.

  • 1 Chronicles 16:8 says…..Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!
  • Psalm 7:17 says….. I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says….Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
  • Colossians 3:15 says….Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

Those are just a few examples, but with having so many verses regarding gratitude there’s no doubt how God feels about it. If anybody in this world should be grateful it should be Christians! God has shown us so much love, grace, and has blessed us both materially and spiritually beyond measure and we should be expressing a spirit of gratitude living as a Christian! We as Christians should being showing gratitude throughout all aspects of our life and let our light shine! If we go around complaining or being ungrateful what kind of example are we setting and how can we expect to evangelize to the lost? They’re response might be, “I don’t want any part of that religion”!

Not only should we show gratitude toward God, we should show gratitude toward our fellow man. Some simple acts of gratitude could be just saying thank you, a thank you card, email, or text. Occasionally, I will receive a thank you note or message from a fellow church member for something that I didn’t think was a big deal but it still meant a lot to receive that.

I would challenge all of us to keep working hard towards a grateful attitude. If you have a moment where you lapse, there are many scriptures to study regarding this subject. Let’s concentrate on the things God has given us not the things we don’t have. Let’s stay focused on the big picture which is our Heavenly home. Having a grateful attitude pleases our Father and is contagious. After all, would you rather fellowship with grateful or ungrateful people? Be careful, as they say misery loves company!

1 Peter–Part VI

1 Peter–Part VI

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I 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.

I Peter – Part VI

We’re independent of any human government, but don’t use that as an excuse to disobey your governments. You have to see every person as valuable. You have to love each other. You have to obey your government. Employees must listen to their employers. Be respectful to them, even when they aren’t good to you. We don’t do this for them, we do it for God. He thinks very highly of us when – because we love him – we act like we should, even when we’re being mistreated. You don’t get credit for putting up with mistreatment if you bring it on yourself with bad behavior. If you’re mistreated because you’re trying to do the right thing, though, it makes God happy. 

This is why God called us in the first place! Jesus suffered to benefit us. He intended for that to be the example we could follow. He never did anything wrong, he never said anything wrong, he didn’t fire back at people who said hurtful things. He never threatened anyone who put him through suffering. He constantly trusted God, knowing that God judges perfectly. He voluntarily took the punishment for our sin when he physically suffered on the cross. He did that to give us the chance to kill our old lifestyles and live morally pure lives. His injuries healed us. We had no direction, aimlessly wondering around like a sheep. Now we follow the one who leads us and protects us. 

We Gotta Stop!

We Gotta Stop!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

If you’re reading this right now, it means you have access to electricity and internet. If you have access to those, you’re already familiar with the subject of this article. This specifically applies to Christians living in the United States, but I encourage those who don’t consider themselves religious to think about the following as well. There’s no other way to address this, so I apologize for having to write it.

“Let’s go Brandon” is everywhere: gas pumps, sporting events, social media posts, bumper stickers, etc. I thought it would die out by now, but it’s everywhere. I see it almost every day on gaming platforms, with many adopting some form of it as a username/handle. It’s become colloquial, used to “thank” the president for any less-than-ideal circumstance.

I am not a fan of our current president. If you drive, you know how much gas is right now. Afghanistan. The Russian ammo ban (and other anti-freedom measures). If you eat food, you’re already familiar with inflation’s impact on groceries. We could go on for a week, but this is a long-winded disclaimer and I need to get to the point.

No Christian should ever adopt the mentality behind the phrase at the beginning of the second paragraph. Besides the crass and hateful language it represents, it’s a sinful way to view our president. Christians are supposed to respect their government leaders (I Pt 2.17). In that passage it’s not a suggestion, it’s an order. The word τιμᾶτε (timate) is an imperative. It means “to show high regard for” someone (BDAG, τιμάω).

Paul wrote, “You should pray for rulers and for everyone who has authority. Pray for these leaders so we can lead a quiet and peaceful life…” (I Tim 2.2). Paul was under an emperor similar to our own president. God’s expectations for Christian behavior don’t change when the president is bad. We don’t have to like him, but we certainly have to respect him and pray for him.

We should not expect to live with God forever if we talk about the president the way so many others do. I get it – it’s hard. Politicization of the medical field under his administration has had a direct impact on my own quality of life. Praying for/respecting the president is not easy at all. But it wouldn’t have been easy for Christians under any of the Roman emperors in the first century, either. If they could do it, so can we. Please think about the serious impact our words have on where we spend eternity. Our first allegiance is to God. If He’s really our King, we’ll have respect for our president.

Image courtesy Flickr.
Loving The Lost

Loving The Lost

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

What if someone were to offer you a thousand dollars for every soul you would earnestly try to lead to Christ? Would you try harder to lead more souls to Him than you are endeavoring to do now? Is it possible that we would attempt to do for money what we sometimes hesitate or shrink from doing now in obedience to God’s command? Is money a stronger motivator than our love for God? 
What hinders us from thinking about other people? Many times we will make excuses and say, “that person won’t listen,” or “they’re too far gone.” We are called to plant the seed of the gospel, not examine the soil and determine if it’ll take the seed. We share the gospel message no matter what soil it lands on. It may be rocky, it may fall among thorns, it may land on the road and never take root, or it may land on good soil. 
We love the lost because it is a command (Phil. 2:3; Rom. 13:8-10), it imitates Christ’s example (1 Jn. 4:16,19), and it is our calling as Christians (Jn. 13:34-35, Eph. 4:32). 
So how can we show our love to the lost? What does it mean for us to love others? It means suffering with those who suffer. Hurting with those who are hurting. Helping those who need a hand. Picking up someone when they are down. Being a friend to the lonely. Writing a card to the grieving. Making a meal for those who are mourning. Bringing the good news of salvation to the lost. 
As God’s children, let’s show Who we belong to by loving the souls that are around us. 

Keeping It Together

Keeping It Together

Wednesday’s Article: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Peter dropped a bombshell on the early church: “Everything’s about to end…” (I Pet. 4.7). For those early Christians, that meant death was close. Our natural reaction when facing imminent death is usually panic, followed by desperate attempts at self-preservation. History (even recent history) has shown us humanity’s trend when faced with potential calamity.

So, what does God expect us to do when we face the end? We’ll look at I Peter 4 for answers.

  • Be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of our prayers (7). God can’t work with us when we’re freaking out.
  • Love each other with dedication (8). Love hides mistakes, and we’re full of them. When everything falls apart, we have to lean on each other.
  • Take care of each other without complaining (9).
  • Use your abilities to help each other (10-11). This could be through finance, words, or serving each other.

More could be said about this! The bottom line is that we can’t react like everyone else. When everything falls apart, we should stand out in a good way. We should be lights in a dark room. Our response to crisis could very well attract people stuck in darkness. We could not possibly help our fellow man more than by giving them the same hope we have!

Hypocrisy Illustrated

Hypocrisy Illustrated

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

In Mark 11:12-14, we read a short and slightly strange account of Christ and his disciples, “On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.” Why did he curse the tree?
 
It seems to me that it would make more sense if he cursed the tree because it was in season and failed to bear fruit, but it wasn’t in season. So why curse the tree? It wasn’t supposed to have fruit. Many people say that what Jesus did was a little extreme. It appears that the only reason Jesus cursed the tree was because He was hungry and was upset that it had no fruit. At first glance His actions seem harsh and unwarranted, but Christ is illustrating a very important lesson.
 
This tree illustrated hypocrisy. Jesus cursed the fig tree because it had the appearance of being fruitful, but it was a lie. It lacked fruit. It was this lie that caused Jesus to curse the tree. It clearly states that this tree was not in season, but it still had leaves. So from far off it seemed to have the appearance of fruit, but it offered nothing but leaves. Jesus doesn’t want us to have the appearance of holiness; He wants us to bear fruit.
It’s not about looking like a Christian, but living like one.
 
Emily told me a story from when she was younger and literally had a run in with a peach tree. She was driving a golf cart at a friend’s house and ran over a young peach tree. The golf cart stripped off the bark and flattened the small tree. The owners had to spray fake bark onto the tree just to keep it alive and healthy, and to this day it’s an ugly tree. But, despite being deformed and mangled, this tree, according to Emily and all her friends, makes the best peaches out of all the peach trees on the property.
 
What’s the point? It’s not about how you look. It’s about what you produce. Jesus doesn’t care about our appearance and if we look like a Christian. The ONLY thing that matters is if we are bearing fruit.
 
This tree was an illustration of the hypocrisy that was found in the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28. Like the whitewashed tombs which Jesus references in these verses, the fig tree looked beautiful on the outside. It looked like it was ripe with fruit! But upon closer examination, it was a lie.
It had nothing. It made itself out to be something it wasn’t. Christ had no tolerance for hypocrisy. If we claim to be Christians and that we have a relationship with God, and yet fail to dwell on His word and spend time in prayer, we are living a life of hypocrisy. Jesus uses this tree to show us how he feels about those who claim to be one thing, when in reality it is all a lie.
 
After Jesus curses the fig tree, they immediately enter the temple and what do they see but a living example of the fig tree?  In verse 15 Jesus sees people using the temple as a place to rip off others. They had turned the temple into a den of thieves. The fig tree had the appearance of having fruit to offer, but it gave none. The temple, Jerusalem, and the Pharisees had the appearance of having holiness and offering salvation,  but had none.
 
We must use this account as motivation to practice what we preach and be who say we are to those around us.
Non-Conformist

Non-Conformist

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Our hens are good layers, even when molting and during bitter cold temperatures. Now that Spring and warmer temperatures are here, they are averaging an egg per day per chicken. But getting into the head (brain?) of a chicken is an impossible task. Many times, we have no idea why they do what they do. Their habits down to their individual decisions defy explanation. The hens have three nesting boxes, but many months ago they all decided they preferred just one. They all use it. Occasionally, you can find all four eggs neatly nestled together in one pile. More often, you will find that one of them has done her own thing. We have found eggs under the roost, at their feed trough, or in some stray, lone position. I need to post a game camera inside to solve mysteries like this.

What I do know is that none of them are acting out of a rational, intelligent decision to act out of step with the crowd. They are just being odd and quirky. There’s neither rhyme nor reason.

All of us, by intelligent design, are social creatures (Gen. 2:18; Ecc. 4:9-12). Whoever makes up our circle, however small or large it is, we do not typically like to be at odds with or stand out from them. At school, at work, wherever our social life takes us, we do not usually crave to speak or act in a way that ostracizes ourselves. 

However, there are times when following the guidance of God and His Word will put us at odds with the world. Describing the sacrificial life we are called to as Christians, Paul writes, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2, ESV). Using the faculty of intellectual perception (mind, BDAG 680), which has been “renewed” (caused to become new and different, with the implication of becoming superior, LN 593), we use the filter of God’s Word to understand what is morally good, acceptable to God, and meeting His highest standard. If we are asked or pressured to do something by “the crowd” that does not pass this test, we cannot comply. Even though we dislike their disapproval, even if it makes us uncomfortable, even if it means potential sacrifice and suffering, and even if it means isolation and ostracism, we make the choice to stand alone. It is more important for us to know and to help others to know God’s will on the matter than to blend in with the group in doing what violates His will. 

Few of us want to be seen as odd and strange, but Scripture warns that it can happen. Peter writes, “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.  With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Pet. 4:3-5). We may bear the scorn of the crowd on occasion, but we are more concerned about the judgment. There, the number of those unprepared to stand before Him will be much greater than those who are ready. Let’s always be more concerned with what He thinks about our conduct! 

Division

Division

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

In this volatile political climate, many Christians face some uncomfortable dilemmas. Is party line a salvation issue? How do we handle seemingly irreconcilable differences? What do we do going forward?
 
Rather than delving into those questions, I’d like to focus on the attitude of the early church, which faced internal division–Jew/Gentile controversies like in Acts 15, opinions over cultural matters as seen in I Corinthians 8 and Romans 14, and external pressures.
 
In keeping with the spirit of the early church, let’s focus on the following list.
 
  1. We must focus on and grow our own spiritual culture, independent of our earthly nationality (while observing Romans 13).
  2. We must be faithful Christians who value being righteous, no matter the cost.
  3. We must manage our concerns and worries by spending MORE time with each other and developing our faith.
  4. We may need to see ourselves less as Americans and more as Christians. If we remember that our kingdom is the church first, we will be far more united.
  5. Be awesome citizens. When outsiders hear about us, it should be that we never cause trouble, we are loyal to each other, we are selfless, we help people, we have strong families, we rely on each other, we are pleasant to be around, we are dedicated to our faith, and we love people who treat us poorly.
  6. We must remember that priority number one is heaven. Everything else is second.
  7. We must avoid talking or posting on social media about non-salvation issues that can and do create division or offense, out of courtesy and respect for each other (Romans 14.1-4; 13ff).
 
If these are the things we worry about and focus on, no political division or any other heartburn-inducing unpleasantness can affect us. Besides being happier, we’ll be a stronger church!
Foul

Foul

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

This word has no positive meaning. Fouling on a spark plug means it’s time to replace it. A foul smell is an unpleasant one. Fouling in the barrel means it’s time to clean your gun. In sports, a foul is usually bad for your team.
 
In older English translations, “foul” is used to describe something impure, unholy, or evil (Mark 5.8; Luke 6.18; Revelation 16.13). Regardless, we understand that something foul is not what we want attributed to our character or in contact with our senses.
 
Are our words foul (Eph. 4.29)? Unwholesome here is σαπρός (sapros), which means “rotten, bad, or harmful.” It describes any kind of speech that has no positive effect or worth. Christians, there is no world in which cursing is excluded from this definition.
 
Consider the following:
 
I Corinthians 9.19ff encourages us to follow culture as long as it doesn’t violate God’s law. Even our secular culture recognizes that some words are not appropriate. Every culture has a set of words, phrases, postures, etc. that are offensive or recognized as inappropriate. These are σαπρός, and have no place in our lives.
 
I Peter 3.10 points out that our words have an effect on our quality of life. This includes avoiding lies and evil speech. Evil here is κακός (kakos), which means “bad, injurious, harmful, or wrong.” Lots of words fall under this category, but why are some exempting curse words? How do those not fit σαπρος or κακός?
 
In the last few years, even some theologians have argued that cursing is not under the purview of these passages. Far too many Christians use words that our culture understands to be curse words.
 
Ephesians four is a chapter about leaving our old lives behind. Part of leaving our old self behind is controlling our speech and using it to encourage others (28). By using foul language (σαπρος), we grieve (offend, distress, cause to become sad) the Holy Spirit (29)!
 
If we know that our words can have an effect on the Spirit that translates our deepest emotions and loss for words into meaningful petitions to God (Romans 8.26, 27), why would we use words that could very easily be described as worthless, harmful, or wrong?
 
James 3.2