Do You Know The Magnitude Of Your Debt?

Do You Know The Magnitude Of Your Debt?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Do you have a “debt problem”? According to credit service, Experian, the average credit card debt per household is $5,315 (Wallethub puts it at $7,849). Renting money comes at a high cost with exorbitant interest.  Perhaps you or a loved one have faced an enormous debt, medical costs, business or student loans, or a mortgage that made for uncomfortable living? Most of us know how that feels, to one degree or another. We don’t like the thought of owing someone. It gives them power and control over us (read Prov. 22:7). Perhaps you are one of those who can say that you don’t owe anyone–not the credit card companies, the mortgage company, the automobile dealers, etc. But you are still in debt! So am I. 

Luke reveals a dinner party with a very diverse cast of characters (Luke 7:36-50). There’s Simon, a Pharisee, who plays host (36). There are several dinner guests (49), but sinless Jesus, God in the flesh, is the guest of honor (36). Then, there was a woman who crashed the party, whose name Luke doesn’t give us but who instead is identified by her lifestyle–“a woman in the city who was a sinner” (37). The Pharisees were the custodians of the Old Law (Mat. 23:2). Simon would be a man of great reputation, one who we’d think would not be the indebted type. This unnamed woman was the opposite. 

Such is the setting that allows Jesus to drive home a powerful point about debt. The woman, with a visibly enormous, spiritual debt, spends money (Mark and John record a similar incident where the contents were worth as much as 300 denarii, or almost a year’s wages), sacrifices dignity, submits humble service, and shows significant emotion (37-38). Apparently, “who” she was was well-known and she had nothing to lose and everything to gain. She is the picture of transparency and need.

Apparently, Simon is at the other end of the spectrum, physically, socially, and, at least on the surface, spiritually. In fact, he sits in judgment of Jesus for allowing the woman to be so familiar with Him, thinking to himself, “If this man were a prophet He would know who & what sort of person this woman is who is touching Him, that she is a sinner” (39). 

Jesus, able to read Simon’s thoughts, uses them as a launching point to teach that vital point about spiritual indebtedness. He shares the parable of two debtors. There was a disparity between the two debts, but neither could repay what they owed. The lender forgives both debts, no strings attached. Who would feel the greater depth of gratitude and affection? The answer is obvious, and Jesus makes application.

He points to how humbly and freely the woman expresses her love and appreciation to Jesus, while Simon is negligent in all the ways she was demonstrative. Jesus points out that this is about faith and forgiveness (47-50). The Lord doesn’t deny that the magnitude of the woman’s sinfulness is enormous (47), but He fully and freely forgives her. Simon’s disadvantage is not as apparent, but is definitely serious. Was he prideful? Self-righteous? Judgmental? There are definitely signs of such struggles in his life. 

It is dangerous to live a life of sin and rebellion against God’s will. Too many never come to grips with their need for faith and forgiveness. But, it is at least as dangerous to be blind to our sin problem or to rationalize and minimize its effect upon our lives. This woman teaches us to be transparent with God and others, to acknowledge our debt, to ask the only one capable of forgiving it to do so, and then to live with humble gratitude and renewed resolve and purpose. Because, whether we admit it or not, we all have an insurmountable debt we cannot repay without His help. 

Loving Our Christian Family (1 John, Part 13)

Loving Our Christian Family (1 John, Part 13)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John 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. 

Love, Pt. 2

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the king who came from God should also love everyone who belongs to God. When we love God and practice what he commanded, that’s how we know we love his family, too. We prove that we love God when we do what he’s commanded, and those commands aren’t difficult to live out. 

If you’re a part of God’s family, you’ve already beaten the world. Our faith is how we’ve won — if you believe that Jesus is God’s son, you’ve won in our spiritual battle against the world! 

The Wearied Preacher

The Wearied Preacher

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” (Ecclesiastes 12.12 NASB1995) 

As Solomon reaches the end of his treatise as “The Preacher,” he expresses his feelings, using his life as an example. During his life, as today, people wrote on many topics. If there is a difference between our two eras, it must be that more people today have access to education and can read all of the books that people write. Otherwise, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9). Yet, with education comes self-reflection. And self-reflection often prompts men to take pen to page and write in poetry and prose. Even so, that self-reflection brings melancholy, as with men like Edgar Allen Poe.

And this is where we find Solomon. But even though cynical at this point, Solomon still sounds as if he could have found a home among the other literary figures of the Romantic era, like Alfred Lord Tennyson or Henry David Thoreau. When it is fashionable for men to be scholarly, one notes more men willing to put thoughts and feelings into words. Whatever the rationale, whether to be praised, make money or achieve catharsis, it spawns one of the hallmarks of culture: literature.

Generally speaking, literature and its study are positive. From those writers in the past, concepts have been communicated through time, influencing future generations. Before the Romantic era, the West went through the Age of Enlightenment. Academics and thinkers drew ideas from the classical thought of ancient Greece. Some thinkers in this epoch penned literature the American Founding Fathers read and sparked a revolution. Others, like Sir Isaac Newton, were inspired to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

But then there is another class of literature written by men with a deleterious effect on the reader. No, I am not just talking of the smut peddler, though that is terrible. Instead, I am referring to those like Karl Marx or Adolph Hitler, who took to pen to write dangerous, subversive ideas that upset the course of civilization. Although World War 2 effectively destroyed Hitler’s brand of fascism, Marxism still flourishes in the ivy-covered walls of U.S. colleges and universities. And we have not even mentioned those like Friedrich Nietzsche, who was desirous of taking away his reader’s hope in God.

Even so, the written word remains one of man’s greatest inventions. And it is apropos that the first book produced by a printing press was a copy of God’s Word. That book, the Bible, is itself a compilation of 66 books. And think of the diverse and storied men who wrote those books’ words through the Holy Spirit’s influence: shepherds, kings, tax collectors, tent makers, doctors, et al. So the final product is something we can even enjoy as literature, despite being written for our moral guidance.

In this Information Age, as some have dubbed it, we still have our writers. They may write as I do for a blog, a funny-sounding word that didn’t even exist a half-century ago. It is short for “weblog.” Or they may write for journals, newsletters, and books. But men still write. You may have never guessed that it is a tiresome task, especially when dealing with the denizens of the interwebs. These readers crave new content, not unlike the way the ancient Athenians daily gathered on Mars’ Hill to hear some new thing (Acts 17.21). And if you don’t keep your content fresh, you lose readers. So even if you do not monetize your blog, as this is a non-monetized blog, one still wants to have readers to make the endeavor worthwhile. It is not necessarily a numbers thing, but more eyes ensure that more seed-casting and watering can occur so that God brings an increase (1 Corinthians 3.5-7).

Hence, there is wisdom in distributing this chore to five men, each bringing their perspective to the task. As one who has repeatedly tried and failed at blogging because of physical infirmity and ADHD, one article a week is a fantastic achievement. However, I get tired at even the thought of multiplying that effort by five weekdays. But Solomon pointed out that writing is tiring. Yes, this is not a book, per se. But it is still wearisome. Some may mock how something like preaching, teaching, or writing devotional content could be tiring since it is not blue-collar work. The answer lies within physiology since even the brain of a resting person requires about 20% of the body’s energy.1

There are also emotional highs and lows. Sometimes you become sad like Solomon. When you realize, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10.31 NASB1995), you want to figure out how to convince the most stubborn person of their need to obey God. Sometimes you must surmount cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational differences to do this. So how do I tailor a message to convince this man or woman I desire to win for Christ?

At other times you encounter a gold nugget, something that had never caught your attention in your prior readings through the Scriptures. So, naturally, you want to drop everything and research it, plumbing its depths. But maybe your search leads nowhere. And you end up tossing it upon that humongous pile of things that are the secret things known only to God (cf. Deuteronomy 29.29). Then again, you might hit the Comstock Lode. In this case, not only do you learn something new, but it may even be something that corrects you from the error you ignorantly embraced and taught. At the end of the day, one realizes that he will never exhaust his capacity to learn something from God’s Word. And that should be something that humbles you.

No wonder Solomon ends his message by saying one should not try to tackle the wisdom that we see residing beyond God’s Word. If it can be wearisome to study the Bible, imagine trying to wrap your head around fields of study that are contingent on theories since no one can prove what they believe. For example, just recently, the James Webb Space Telescope showed no signs that the universe is expanding, something necessary if the big bang occurred. There is also no red shift in those galaxies farthest away, indicating no cosmic expansion. So now cosmologists and physicists will go back and have to come up with a new explanation for the universe’s origin. How frustrating, even panic-inducing.2

Solomon sums everything up after the “wearied Preacher’s” last admonition against too much study and “excessive devotion” to books of no eternal value. Our purpose is to fear God and keep His commandments because He will be judging us (12.13-14). If you know enough to save your soul from hell, you are indeed a wise man or woman.  

 

Works Cited 

1 Richardson, Michael W. “How Much Energy Does the Brain Use?” BrainFacts.org, Society for Neuroscience, 1 Feb. 2019, www.brainfacts.org/Brain-Anatomy-and-Function/Anatomy/2019/How-Much-Energy-Does-the-Brain-Use-020119.

2 PlanetMoron. “What If the Big Bang Never Happened? the James Webb Space Telescope Might Change Everything.” Not the Bee, Not the Bee, 22 Aug. 2022, notthebee.com/article/what-if-the-big-bang-never-happened

Six Truths About Opportunities From Galatians 6:10

Six Truths About Opportunities From Galatians 6:10

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

In the next several weeks at Lehman Avenue church of Christ, there are several big events occurring. In two weeks, we’re having our Vacation Bible School (which we’ve even advertised on TV). The following Sunday is our “Friends And Family Day.” Then, a couple of weeks after that, we’re having a “Widowhood Seminar” with Dean Miller. A month after that, we’re having our Fall Gospel Meeting with Robert Hatfield. There are other things that affect part of the congregation during this time, but it all makes the point that these are potential opportunities to be involved, to invite non-Christian friends and family, and encourage our immediate families.

The apostle Paul asks the church at Galatia to consider each other within the body of Christ. They had a responsibility to help pull each other out of spiritual darkness (Gal. 6:1), to support each other (Gal. 6:2), to strengthen his or her own faith (Gal. 6:4-5), to support Christian teachers and preachers (Gal. 6:6), and to sow the right kind of spiritual seed (Gal. 6:7-8). They were not to lose heart in doing good (Gal. 6:9). It is in this context that Paul makes this statement: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). In this short statement, Paul shares six truths about opportunities. 

Opportunities Are Conditional. Paul says, “As we have opportunity.” When should we walk through doors of opportunity? When they are open. Don’t force something that is not there, but don’t shun or avoid what is placed before you. Consider that this might well be the providence of God. 

Opportunities Are Communal. “As we” implies that God wants His people working together. He does not desire one or a few to be involved in any area that He has designed the church to do. While opportunities are also personal, and each of us must seek opportunities. But, from the beginning, we see the church working together (Acts 2:42-47; Rom. 12:3ff). 

Opportunities Are Tangible. An opportunity is an event, a person, a place, a need, etc., that can be weighed, evaluated, and engaged in. It’s not a wish, hope, or idea per se. It’s something you can put your hands on. 

Opportunities Are Practical. Seeing the opportunity, we are to “do.” Engage your brain power, think it through, seek counsel, and the like, and put them to work. In the end, it will not be “well said” or “well intended,” but “well done” (Mat. 25:21,23). 

Opportunities Are Impartial. Let us do good to everyone. That’s people like us and people nothing like us. It’s for people easy to serve and people difficult to serve. God demonstrates impartial goodness and kindness (Acts 10:34-35; Mat. 5:45; Acts 14:17). That’s what He wants from us. 

Opportunities Are Special. We are to exercise opportunities “especially to those who are of the household of faith.” God wants us to focus on helping our brethren in a special, prioritizing way in the midst of our searching for opportunities. Don’t neglect opportunities with those in the world, but keep your sharper eye on helping your spiritual family. 

In the light of all that God is affording us the opportunity to do in the near future, let’s consider what Paul says in this text. Apply it to your situation, wherever you are and whatever is going on. God doesn’t expect you to do it all or more than your fair share, but He makes clear that He has expectations of you in this realm of opportunities. Who knows what good thing He will do through you, if you are ready to meet the opportunity head on. 

“Let’s Go Back To Church”

“Let’s Go Back To Church”

Neal Pollard

A law enforcement officer interviewed on a Chicago news station was commenting on the most recent, tragic shooting, this one in the Windy City’s northern suburb town of Highland Park. He began talking about root causes of these shootings, comparing these shooters to weeds that pop up various places. In the midst of this, he made an incredible statement: “Let’s go back to church.”

I got to thinking about what, if any, connection these shooters had with organized religion. Is there a trend? In 2018, John Lott, President of Crime Prevention Research Center, wrote, “What is most shocking is how few of these killers appear to be religious, let alone Christian. Just 16 percent have any type of religious affiliation at the time of their attacks, with a slight majority of those being Muslims” (https://dailycaller.com/2018/05/26/religion-of-mass-public-shooters/). His criteria was a mass public shooting in which at least four people were killed. He counted 69 killers in 66 shootings from 1998-2018. Just four of these identified themselves as Christians and just three were “clearly regular church goers” (ibid.). 

On the other side of the coin, The New York Times shared the results of a study done by the University of Kentucky of 3000 participants in 13 countries. The lead paragraph by writer Benedict Carey states, “Most people around the world, whether religious or not, presume that serial killers are more likely to be atheists than believers in any god, suggests a new study, which counters the common assumption that increasingly secular societies are equally tolerant of nonbelievers. Avowed atheists exhibited the same bias in judging sadistic criminals, the study found” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/07/health/atheists-religion-study.html). 

But, truly this is not about finger-pointing. For those with a biblical worldview, we can see a connection between society’s that violate God’s will and a great many consequences (Prov. 14:34). That is perhaps a needed point for a different article. Instead, consider something about the wisdom of God in how He intended the church to function and behave. From the very beginning, the church was established to be a place of community and fellowship (Acts 2:42). It was also designed to be a place of internal accountability (1 Cor. 5; Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20). In Christ, the individual is given a better, more positive view of self (1 Pet. 2:5,9; 1 John 3:1-3), of fellow-believers (John 13:34-35), and even those who are different than them and even persecutors of them (Mat. 5:38-48). 

I would argue that there are so many more reasons why one should consider attending church. There is an eternal gain that makes anything which happens in this life bearable (Rev. 2:10). There are spiritual blessings in such abundance that it’s hard to count them all (Eph. 1:3ff).  There I a joy in serving with others and in the serving of others (Gal. 5:13; John 13:12-17). Yet, there is also an antidote to isolation and the frightening results of the echo chamber that occurs in the absence of others to help balance and challenge us to be better and live better. Isolation and loneliness seem to be occurring in epidemic proportions. This certainly is a scourge on mental health, but it also has social, emotional, spiritual, and even physical consequences. Perhaps that law enforcement expert is right. Maybe the answer is as simple as, “Let’s go back to church.”

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Heb. 10:23-25).

via Flickr (creative commons)
Filled To The Brim

Filled To The Brim

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

The first miracle of Jesus is found in John chapter two. While many won’t give much thought to the servants in this account, let’s place the focus on them here. 

John 2.1-11 

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you. 

When Jesus refers to His mother as “woman” He was using a term of respect in that day and age. John writes that the hour of His death had not come because that is an underlying narrative of his book. 

Continuing on, 

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” 

Now, notice the response of the servants. 

“So they filled them up to the brim.” 

They never questioned why they should fill these jars with water. This was no simple task and it was no doubt a time consuming chore. The jars held anywhere from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty gallons of water. They likely drew the water out of a well— one bucket at time. 

Jesus then tells the servants, 

 “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” 

Once again, notice the response of the servants. 

“So they took it.” 

The servants didn’t ask why they should draw the water out or even why they should take it to the master of the feast. They don’t seem to hesitate even though it could have been a humiliating experience to serve water to the head of the wedding feast. They just took it! They simply listened to what Jesus told them to do. 

The servants and their unquestioning obedience is praiseworthy. As servants of Christ, we should do whatever He tells us. We shouldn’t do the bare minimum but we should, in a spiritual sense, fill our jars to the brim. We should live our lives completely dedicated to fulfilling His commands, even if it’s difficult or when it doesn’t make much sense to us. 

Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Wisdom Calls, Can You Hear?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

 

Brent Pollard

Last week we noted that one has two reliable sources of wisdom: God and one’s parents. However, we might alter this slightly to include the adjective “godly” to describe our parents. If one’s parents are not godly, then they cannot offer much in the way of wisdom. Everything else is a tertiary source of wisdom. This truth invites harmful consequences for the one listening to the wrong source of wisdom. Solomon warns that sinners seek to seduce you with their words (Proverbs 1.10-19). 

But what do we mean by “sinner”? We have in mind those who habitually sin, not just those who have yet to enter a covenant relationship with God. In other words, these individuals make no pretense of doing good or being righteous. Solomon’s example seems extreme to us since we have a blood-thirsty gang willing to kill to plunder others’ property. How could anyone be seduced into committing an act God hates (Proverbs 6.16-19)? Unfortunately, it is not as difficult as you might think. 

Adolph Hitler remains an easy illustrative target because he is so infamous. However, during an economic depression, Hitler rose to power, promising a return to prosperity. Hitler convinced the Germans that only the Jews stood between them and their restoration. Hitler was charismatic, and he had helpers like Joseph Goebbels, able to package his message for easy consumption. How many otherwise “good” Germans turned a blind eye to atrocities committed under the pretense of creating the thousand-year reign of the Third Reich?  

When Patton discovered the atrocities committed at Buchenwald, he brought the locals into the concentration camp to see what had happened there. Some still feigned ignorance, but one eyewitness at the time declared that one could smell death in the air even outside the camp. “Death” has an unmistakable smell. Visitors to the concentration camps of Europe have told me that the scent lingers today. It is inconceivable that they didn’t know that something nefarious happened behind the locked gates of Buchenwald.   

I’ve watched enough documentaries to note how many older Germans living during that time say that Hitler had them under a spell. And some of the Hitler youth have struggled to adjust to the post-war world. But today, it is common for Germans to refer to the events of the Second World War as the liberation of Germany by the Allied Forces. In other words, contemporary Germans see the period of Nazi rule as an occupation even though the citizenry widely supported Hitler at that time. 

But what of a “softer” despotism? We have U.S. politicians parroting the Marxist ideology of redistribution. (“From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”) And younger generations are quick to point out the disparity between the salary of the CEO and the employee, even though the CEO may have blood and sweat equity invested in his business and that no job would exist for the employer without him. And there is this disconnect between those desiring that we plunder the “rich” and redistribute to the “poor” and the “foot soldiers” willing to “Occupy Wall Street.” The latter may be ready to commit violence to achieve revolutionary goals, but those sympathetic are likewise content to stay silent as the rabble fights. Lest we forget, the failed economic ideology of Karl Marx has never worked anywhere it has been tried. Furthermore, it has given us men like Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, who have killed far more of their citizens than even Hitler did of the Jews.  

It is much easier to follow a multitude to do evil than we care to admit. Thus, Moses warned against such (Exodus 23.2). It is a matter of companionship. As Paul warns, if we surround ourselves with evil people, it will corrupt our good morals (1 Corinthians 15.33). On the other hand, if we tolerate the presence of evil, we will discover its shared nature with yeast that permeates the dough into which one introduces it (1 Corinthians 5.6). This cascading effect is one of the reasons a church must practice discipline when needed (1 Corinthians 5.1ff).  

Lady Wisdom’s call stands in stark contrast (Proverbs 1.20-33). But, like the effort required to enter the narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14), one must be determined to hear her voice over the noisy crowds (1.21). Lady Wisdom is especially desirous to grab the attention of three groups: simpletons, mockers, and fools. Simpleton sounds derogatory but means that one is gullible. Aren’t the gullible especially vulnerable to the misinformation supplied by the tertiary sources of earthly wisdom? Indeed. And it is not necessarily a matter of ignorance, but lack of experience making them simpletons.  

Mockers, also called scoffers, are those flouting God’s authority. As with the simpleton, this does not mean one is stupid. Instead, a mocker chooses to be such by his disposition. Like the pharaoh to whom Moses spoke, mockers ask, “Who is God that I should hear His voice?” (Exodus 5.2) Finally, we have the fool. As we have said previously, “fool” has nothing to do with intellectual capacity. A biblical fool is a morally deficient person despising wisdom and discipline. Thus, the fool is “happier” living without the intrusive “advice” of a Creator God. 

But as Lady Wisdom warns, her unheard pleas will become a calamity for those refusing her counsel. And on that day, not only will she not be an advocate at one’s side, but she will join the chorus of laughter at their downfall (1.26). Lady Wisdom sounds cruel, but truthfully, she is just a strict teacher. She knows that one eats the fruit of his own way (1.31, cf. Galatians 6.7-8). Thus, she leaves you to your own devices. And the isolation one feels when facing the consequences of his actions is not even abated by the knowledge that God’s grace is available to forgive. The fallen one wishes he could call on Lady Wisdom but realizes that all she can tell him now is, “I tried to tell you.” 

David illustrates this feeling of loneliness in facing the consequences well in Psalm 51. Do you recall his misery? He could feel the separation between himself and God. He cried out to God to restore the joy of his salvation (Psalm 51.12). As recompense, David would then teach others (Psalm 51.13). We might add that bargaining is a noted process of grief. David was grieving. It mattered not that David knew God could forgive him because he still felt that loneliness that began when Nathan pointed the finger at him and said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12.7). Lady Wisdom was absent from David. Even if present, all she could have done was remind him of what he had done wrong. 

Today, Lady Wisdom still calls. Can you hear her? You may have to strain to listen to her over the world’s noise. But do not spurn her invitation lest you share the fate of the simpleton, mocker, and fool. Instead, hear her offer of security and peace of mind (1.33) and accept her counsel.   

Will He Marvel At Me?

Will He Marvel At Me?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

What is faith? According to the world, faith is seen as a blind trust. It is belief in something regardless of a lack of proof. Many believe that as Christians we are called to have a blind faith. But this is simply not the case. 

The word for faith in scripture is “pistis” and it is defined as “that which evokes trust.” This is trust that is formed from an objective basis. It is a confidence in the proof that has been revealed in scripture. The biblical definition is far from this idea of a blind faith. 

We know what faith is, but what does it look like practically? Faith is holding on to God through tragedy and loss. Faith is knowing that no matter what sickness or trial we go through, God is still in control. Faith is persevering through life with a confidence and hope in our eternal home. 

Faith impacts every aspect of life and that’s why we should always strive to grow our faith. 

There is a need for greater faith. We can grow our faith by looking to those who Jesus commended for their great faith. 

Throughout Jesus’ ministry he encountered several people that showed great faith. There are only two occurrences in scripture where Jesus “marveled.” One is Mark 6:7, where Jesus marveled at their unbelief (lack of faith).  The other is Luke 7:9, where Jesus marvels at the Centurion’s great faith. With our faith we have the ability to cause Jesus to Marvel. The question is, will Jesus marvel at our belief or our unbelief?

creative common via PxHere
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. 

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.