Sunday’s Bulletin Article: “F-E-A-R”

Sunday’s Bulletin Article: “F-E-A-R”

Neal Pollard

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It will make congregations forsake God’s command to practice church discipline, especially in the age of Facebook and Instagram. It will disrupt, cancel, and in other ways impact congregational plans, faced with something that has killed .0004% of the world’s population. It will cause congregations to abandon the biblical position on any number of things that accommodates the cultural point of view. But, biblically speaking, what is particularly the fear of the devil, mankind, or things of this earth?

F-AITHLESS. You’ll find fear and faith contrasted in Scripture (Mat. 14:31; Mark 4:40; Heb. 11:23). Jesus rebukes a fear which hinders faith more than anyone. When we are driven by fear rather than faith, we confess that we believe in something more than we believe in God. Fear is completely understandable, something the Bible’s greatest heroes felt. But, they overcame their fear of men and even the devil by a greater faith in God’s power. The generation of Israel Moses led were the poster children of fear (Num. 14:9), yet what does the writer of Hebrews diagnose as the root cause of their punishment and rejection? “Unbelief” (3:19).

E-PIDEMIC. Have you noticed how quickly and widely fear spreads? The spies sent to Canaan came back afraid and they transmitted it to the whole nation almost immediately (Num. 13:31-33; 14:1ff). The devil has plenty of channels to transmit fear, from traditional to social media. But even pulpits, private meetings, and informal discussions can fan the flames of fear. Fear plays to our flesh, and the voice of fear travels at light speed. 

A-MPLIFYING. Have you ever suffered from economic, relationship, occupational, or spiritual problems? Lie still in your bed at night (or wake up in the middle of the night) and those fears grow exponentially. Like worry, fear is often greater than the problem. It’s why the devil finds it a useful tool in his warfare (cf. Rev. 2:10; 21:8–“cowardly” is the word “afraid” in Mark 4:40; 2 Tim. 1:7). The enemy looks bigger and scarier than it is, but giving in to fear can make it seem gigantic.

R-ASH. Jesus makes this clear during His earthly ministry. He says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mat. 10:28). The analogy is definitely disturbing. There are physical and spiritual entities out there with the power to take our lives. We can be so quick to respond to them by retreating or withdrawing. But if the fear of those things replaces or supplants the fear that belongs rightfully only to God, we are in big trouble. 

These, are fearful times! Who doesn’t wrestle with fear? It seems that Jesus did (Luke 22:44; Heb. 5:7). God understands we’ll struggle with fear (Psa. 103:14). But His lovingkindness and compassion are “on those who fear Him” (Psa. 103:11,13,17). There is more Kingdom work to do than ever! There are numerous obstacles, but let’s not get in our own way through fear! 

Listen! 

Listen! 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Listen! That’s how Jesus starts His lesson in Mark 4:3. He has just stepped out onto a boat so that He could speak to the large crowd that had gathered to hear Him. This was a very special sermon. Jesus is going to give the secret to all of His parables by telling a unique parable about the farmer who goes out to sow on the various kinds of ground. When Jesus said “Listen!” He was talking to a specific kind of person. 

He wasn’t interested in the one who would hear His words and then fall away later when called to stand up for their faith. He wasn’t looking for the one who would hear His words and then foolishly decide that this world had more to offer. 

Jesus said “listen!” because He knew that some would hear His words and those words would change their lives. They would live out His teachings. They would become those lamps He would later discuss later in the chapter. Those who truly listened to this specific sermon and took it to heart would bear fruit. It’s humbling to think that some only believe they’ve listened to Jesus, but on the last day will find out that they only thought they listened (verse 25). 

Are we listening to the Savior? One way Jesus tells us we can know if we and others are listening is by looking at the fruit being planted. This section of scripture is a great reminder that there are many who will not hear the Lord and His life-changing and life-saving message, but there are also those out there in our communities who are willing and waiting for us to share Him with them.

God Provides (2 Kings 4) 

God Provides (2 Kings 4) 

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

2 Kings 4 records an incredible story. In verse one we are introduced to a poor widow who has just hit rock bottom. She didn’t know what to do or where to turn and in her pain and sorrow she did the only thing she knew she could do; she turned to God. She “cries out to Elisha” and the Hebrew word for “cries” literally means that she was wailing in anguish. This widow was heartbroken and in need. But this account reveals to us some comforting truths about God. By studying this account we can find peace in knowing that God has a solution to our problems. 

Elisha says to her, “‘What shall I do for you? Tell me; what have you in the house?’ And she said, ‘Your servant has nothing in the house except a jar of oil.’ Then he said, ‘Go outside, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, empty vessels and not too few. Then go in and shut the door behind yourself and your sons and pour into all these vessels. And when one is full, set it aside’” (2-4). This woman had nothing but a jar of oil, but not for long. She does what Elisha tells her to do and the jar of oil filled every single vessel she collected. 

And that’s the end of that story. The widow came to God while she was at her lowest, and God provided for her. He gave her the oil she needed to fix her problems. The end. 

But what about MY oil? Maybe you’re thinking, “When is God going to fix my problems and provide my oil? When will He give me the money for an electric bill? When will He fix my broken heart? When will God take care of me?” Let me tell you about the oil that God has given you. If you’re a christian, God has already taken care of you. He has blessed us with a gift far more precious than gold. He has promised to one day wipe away every tear from your eyes. If you’re a Christian, God is already taking care of your most valuable possession–your soul. 

God has given us the oil that never runs dry. Now that’s not to say that God will do for us physically what we ask, but even if he doesn’t He has already shown us more love and care than anyone else on earth. God is more concerned with my spiritual state than my bank account. God is more concerned about my work as a Christian than my 9-5 job. God is more concerned about my soul than whether or not I am comfy here on earth. 

God never promised us that if we become Christians we would be financially blessed. But He HAS promised to give us a reward like no other if we are faithful in times of trouble. God has and will provide for those who are faithful to Him. 

I’d like to suggest that the account from 2 Kings 4 isn’t necessarily about the oil. It was about the widow’s faith, it was about her obedience, and it was a demonstration of the power of God. But from this account we learn that God provides for those in need, and we can find peace in knowing that our most valuable possession is in the hands of Almighty God. 

RIGHTEOUS OR RAVENS?

RIGHTEOUS OR RAVENS?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Elijah is known as one of the greatest prophets. We’re introduced to him in 1 Kings 17 and God is preparing him to accomplish great things. As God leads him he begins to grow in faith while following His lead. Ahab wears the crown after his father Omri, but he is significantly more wicked. In fact, he’s more wicked than all before him. It’s fitting that during such a terrible time someone like Elijah makes his appearance. 

There’s an interesting event that takes place while the prophet shelters by a brook that God had led him to. Ravens fly in with bread and meat to keep him sustained. The raven was an unclean animal, yet God is helping Elijah grow in several ways during this period. He’s leading, and Elijah follows in faith. He could not deny that God sent him the ravens, yet it went against his upbringing. Even so, he still ate. 

One lesson we can pull from this account is that God can use the unclean for His purposes. God can use the evil people and nations to accomplish His will. An unfaithful Christian can share the gospel and a sinful man can make good and godly decisions, all the while remaining unclean. That’s a humbling lesson. We can act faithful, but we can remain filthy. We don’t want that! It’s my prayer that today we can make a fresh commitment to be faithful to God in all things. He can lead us through even the darkest times, if we have the faith to follow. 

God’s “House-Law”

God’s “House-Law”

Wednesday’s Column: “Third’s Words”

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Every home has some kind of system in place to keep order. Maybe you were told to take your shoes off at the door, keep your elbows off the table, make your bed in the morning, or brush your teeth more than twice a month. Every home is different and the expectations for conduct and cleanliness vary accordingly. However your home was structured, you were at least bound to a set of rules in some form.

God’s house is no different. I’m not just talking about the building we meet in for worship, but that anytime His family offers up worship to Him we are expected to follow His rules. I Timothy 1.4 talks about God’s “house-law” (often mistranslated “stewardship” or “godly edification”). The word is οικονομία (oikonomia), combining οίκος (house) with νόμος (law). What does this mean in context? In I Timothy Paul publicly berates two members who were teaching “myths and endless genealogies which do not promote the house law of God in faith” (1.3, 4; 20).

If any teaching goes against what God has told us He wants, it’s a violation of His house-law. We understand this when it comes to daily life outside of religious activities. If we break the law we are held accountable to it. We understand that violating the laws our governments put in place to maintain order and promote justice carries consequences. Some, though, do not act as if the same applies to God’s people in a religious context.

God’s house-law is more specifically defined in I Timothy 2.1-8. Anytime and anywhere Christian men and women offer worship together, God expects qualified Christian men to lead. This is made clear with the phrase, “…in every place” (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

Not just any man can lead, though! He must be someone who is able to lift holy hands (that is, he is pure in life and can offer worship without the stain of sin), he must be cool-headed, and he can’t be unstable in his faith (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

God expects women to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves (2.9, 10) and are to allow godly men to lead them in worship (2.11-14). His house, his rules.

In all of my vast wisdom and experience as a child, I didn’t always agree with or like all of my family’s house rules. Probably every teen and their unfortunate parents experience this. My feelings about a house rule did not alter its validity in any way. It was not my house so I was not in a position to change or violate the rules. Trying to do so was not only futile but often carried consequences.

God’s design for His church is not acceptable to the secular world. In their disagreement or downright hostility toward it they have pushed many churches into changing God’s house-laws. This doesn’t fly in the legal world, the home, or in any setting where rules were set in place by those most qualified to make them. Why would it work with God?

We may not always understand why God made the laws that He did, but this is where the faith aspect of 1 Timothy 1.4 comes into play. We have to ask ourselves, “Do we trust that God knew what He was doing when He made these laws, and do I really want to challenge Him on the rules He made for His own family?” At the end of the day we must remember that in God’s house we follow God’s laws. Many of the problems facing the church in 2020 can be solved simply by accepting this fact! If we do – as in any family – we will not only have harmony in the church, but a permanent, peaceful home with God after this life.

Job 38.4-7

“We Have Nothing to Offer but Fear Itself” 

“We Have Nothing to Offer but Fear Itself” 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

We have entered the vestibule of a new year. Upon reflection, one might realize how subjective the significance of this day is. Neil deGrasse Tyson likes to point this out annually. For example, in 2011, he tweeted: “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” (Tyson) Consider China. They may observe the Gregorian calendar to conduct global business, but they will not celebrate the new year until February 12, 2021. Why is there a discrepancy? The Chinese, like the Jews, have a lunar-based calendar. God may have created time as a construct in our material universe, but the only “clocks” He provided were the moon and the sun (Genesis 1.14-19), and it is easier to mark time by the moon since we watch it wax and wane. The sun may appear a little lower or higher in the sky, but it is always making its same east-west circuit.  

Even so, we choose January 1 as a special day to begin making necessary or desirable changes to our lives. I would hope that in an age of “fear porn,” the child of God will choose calm. I apologize if the use of that four-letter word is offensive. However, “fear porn” is an expression that has entered our vernacular. Oxford defines this specific usage of the word “porn” as follows: “[in combination or with modifier] Television programs, magazines, books, etc. that are regarded as emphasizing the sensuous or sensational aspects of a nonsexual subject and stimulating a compulsive interest in their audience.” (“Porn”)  Perhaps the definition provided by a user of the less-authoritative Urban Dictionary is more accessible.  “Mainstream Media content that deliberately and enticingly plays on people’s fears about disaster, disease, and death.” (Animalfarm1984) 

While addressing the Great Depression, Democrat Franklin Delano Rosevelt famously stated, “…the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Among others, Michael Reagan, speaking of his political opponents, has altered the maxim to be “the only thing we have to offer is fear itself.” (Reagan) I imagine there are those considering that indictment up to debate. However, it is not my point to assign blame to political parties or politicians. Many thrive on instilling fear regardless of political affiliation. As one writer for a pop-psychology magazine opined, fear is “the most powerful motivator of all.” (Wilson)    

I set out to recall a time in my life in which no Chicken Little was trying to scare me about something. I fail to remember a season when all was well with the world. In nearly a half-century of life, alarmists told me of the perils I face from nuclear war, a new ice age, a hole in the ozone layer, acid rain, killer bees, the deforestation of the Amazon region, the policies of Ronald Reagan, Y2K, global-warming-no-wait-let’s-call-it-climate-change-to-cover-all-our-bases, the policies of Barrack Obama, Ebola, the very existence of Donald Trump, the Illuminati, Globalists, Antifa, Black Lives Matter, COVID-19, and, now, Joe Biden’s socialist regime. Phew. Sadly, I have occasionally given such Chicken Littles a greater hearing than the assurances found in God’s Word.  

What was it that the inspired Apostle John said? “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4.4 NASB1995). Jesus created and now sustains creation (Colossians 1.16-17). It is He who will destroy it when the time comes (2 Peter 3.10). In the interim, as God promised Noah: “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8.22 NASB1995).” It may be that we figuratively see the writing on the wall as Belshazzar indeed did in Daniel 5, but even so, God will be our Rock. Even if the mountains crumble and fall into the sea, He is still our refuge (Psalm 46). It is OK to face uncertainty with apprehension like Habakkuk did as he awaited the impending Babylonian invasion (Habakkuk 3.2,16). Yet, like Habakkuk (and the Apostle Paul), we must bravely move forward, recognizing our dependence upon Providence (Habakkuk 3.17-19; Philippians 4.11-13). Regardless of what 2021 may hold, if you seek God and His Kingdom first, God has your back (Matthew 6.33)! 

Works Cited 

Tyson, Neil deGrasse (neiltyson). “January 1, 2011: Happy New Year to all –at this arbitrary spot in Earth’s orbit around the Sun.” 1 January 2011, 2:55 p.m. Tweet. 

“Porn: Definition of Porn by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com Also Meaning of Porn.” Lexico Dictionaries | English, Lexico Dictionaries,www.lexico.com/en/definition/porn

Animalfarm1984. “Fear Porn.” Urban Dictionary, Urban Dictionary, 26 June 2020, www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Fear+Porn

Reagan, Michael. “Stories in the News – Ketchikan, Alaska – The Fear Peddlers.” Sitnews, Stories in the News, 15 May 2003, 4:25 p.m.,www.sitnews.net/Columnist/051503_reagan.html

Wilson, Robert. “The Most Powerful Motivator.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 23 Sept. 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/200909/the-most-powerful-motivator

 

THE IMPERATIVES OF ROMANS 15

THE IMPERATIVES OF ROMANS 15

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

When examining a passage that we need to put into practice, one of the most important things we can do is to find the imperatives in that passage. For example, the Great Commission in Matthew 28 contains one imperative–“make disciples” (19).  Two participles tell us how to do that: “baptizing” and “teaching” (19-20). Another example is Ephesians 5:18-21. There is a double imperative here: “Do not be drunk with wine” (18), but “be filled with the Spirit” (18). How do you obey the command to be filled with the Spirit? There are five ways, according to Paul. You are filled with the Spirit by “speaking,” “singing,” “making melody,” “giving thanks,” and “being subject to one another.” 

In his closing appeal to the Romans, Paul is concerned about how church members are treating each other. There are apparent struggles among them over their diverse religious past. Paul pictures this as those “weak in faith” (14:1)  and those who are “strong” (15:1). The strong is also called one who has faith (14:2). Apparently, God not only expects that congregations will have both categories of Christians, but He expects us to successfully work through situations that arise out of this fact. 

Apparently, one of the most damaging ways we handle such differences is by “judging” one another (14:3-4,10,13). The way Paul uses that word here means to “pass an unfavorable judgment upon, criticize, find fault with, and condemn” (BDAG 567). The issues in their circumstance were things like eating meets offered to idols and observing special days (14:5-6). Those things seem strange, even trivial, to us today. But the church in every generation has their own petty problems to negotiate, things that are struggles of faith nonetheless (14:16-23). This clash of convictions and maturity levels must be successfully met and overcome. How?

That’s where we turn to Romans 15. Paul gives two imperatives that are at the heart of negotiating the prickly situations like those we are facing right now. They are “please your neighbor” (15:2) and “accept one another” (15:7). Those two commands can be the hardest thing to do when we disagree with how our brother (or sister) handles a matter, especially matters without clearcut instruction. To “please” is to accommodate others by meeting their needs and sacrificing self-interest. None of us wants to do that, but if you are strong (15:1) it’s what you do. It’s what Jesus did (15:3)! To “accept one another” is best defined by contrasting it with its opposite, which in this context is to “regard with contempt” (14:3). That’s reflected in a sinful attitude, dismissing, disdaining, judging, and looking down on. 

Think about the difference when one obeys or disobeys these two God-given commands. If our mentality is to “please” and “accept,” how does that affect our relationship with those drawing different conclusions in matters of judgment? If we choose to please ourselves and reject our spiritual family based on their different conclusions, where do we wind up? According to Paul, it’s not a good place (14:12,15). 

I have yet to hear of a congregation without at least “two sides” in negotiating all that’s involved in reacting to the current pandemic. Everything from masks to isolating versus assembling to rational versus irrational fear gets dragged into the conversation. It’s easy to dig our trenches deeper and draw our lines bolder. What is to govern us in these tedious, perilous times? At the heart of it all, we must obey our Lord’s instruction. “Please your neighbor for his good, to his edification” (15:2) and “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (15:7).  Never lose sight of this! 

 

 

Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Christ’s Focus On Getting Rid Of Sin

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 

 

 

Gary Pollard

This week we will do a brief study of I Peter 3.17-22. 

In verse 17, the emphasis in the original text is “doing good.” If it is God’s desire (this is emphasized) that we suffer, it is better (stronger, more prominent, more advantageous) that we suffer for doing good works than evil works. How much more powerful a message do we send when we come under fire for doing something that benefits others? If we suffer for doing something bad, we’re just another criminal. But to suffer in the act of doing something good – in context – is a far more powerful evangelistic tool. 

In the following verses, Peter gives a powerful example of Christ’s focus on getting rid of sin. He put everything into saving mankind – including giving His own life – so that we could all have the opportunity to come to God. Even before the destruction of the world through the flood He made sure everything had the opportunity to hear about their spiritual state. Whether this was done through Noah and his sons or whether He had a more direct hand in this is immaterial. The point of the text is that the message got out to those who are “now in prison.” His goal was to bring others to God, even when it caused Him suffering. 

Only those who did listen and obey – eight people – were rescued from evil by the waters of the flood. Notice that the Spirit does not record Noah’s ark as being what saved them! They were saved in the important sense by the destruction of evil. Our focus is not earthly. 

Just as water saved Noah and his family from evil, water saves us from spiritual death. Being immersed in water is how we make a formal appeal to God for a clear conscience! Some translations render this, “A promise to God from a good conscience,” as if baptism is some kind of outward sign of an inward faith. This is not reflected in Greek; it is a conscience cleared by an appeal to God, because of the resurrection of Jesus. He has all power, so He can clear our record when we submit to Him. 

Having all of this as a background, we have some motivation to keep our actions pure, suffer for doing good things, and understand that God’s power is what saves us. Peter gives many other phenomenal motivators for living a pure life, which we will look at in detail in the coming weeks. 

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
1 Peter 3.8ff is a passage with tons of application. What I’d like to do is simply break it down and apply as we go.
 
3.8 –   Is addressed to every Christian, as opposed to the gender-specific commands of the previous section. Christians are told to have a unified mindset, understanding of the needs of others, affection for each other, compassion for each other, and a sober view of self.
 
3.9 – In the context of being ridiculed or outright persecuted for faith, we’re commanded not to stoop to a hostile person’s level. Instead, we are only to say good things to and about them. The word for “bless” here would be like us giving a glowing review of someone, even when they’re hostile to us. Why? Because God promised us a glowing review, even though our lifestyle was hostile to Him before we were faithful.
 
3.10-12 – If we want to have good days, we have to control our tongues, reject evil, and actively do beneficial things for others. If we do, God looks at us with approval. If not, He is against us.
 
3.13 – If we pursue doing good things with energy, no one can say anything against us. Who can assault the character of someone passionate about bringing good into others’ lives?
 
3.14But even if they do is a contrast not as plainly seen in English. This verse starts with a powerful contrastive (αλλα) that points to how we should act in the face of totally unwarranted hostility. Even if our pursuit of good gets us in trouble, we can still be happy! Even in this life we cannot lose. We cannot let fear dictate our behavior, and we cannot let anyone’s intimidation cause us to react with hostility.
 
3.15 – Instead, we should make the most special place in our heart God’s place. We don’t serve fear, we serve God. If someone shows hostility to us when we’re doing good, we have to be ready to give a rational explanation for our hope with an attitude that proves our supernatural allegiance. Our fear of God must be greater than our fear of man.
 
We do this because our goal is to bring others to God! It’s hard, but we can only do it when we remove self from the equation. People tend to attack what they do not understand. By using reason and by restraining our emotional response, we can help save their souls. We were all hostile to God at one point, but we now have mercy. Being controlled and rational while under “attack” is not a normal human response. Our response can mean the difference in someone’s eternal destination!
“Childhood Fears”

“Childhood Fears”

TUESDAY’S COLUMN: “DALE MAIL”

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Dale Pollard

Do you remember what your childhood fears were? Maybe you never really grew out of those fears. I can remember a number of phobias I had as a child, one of which was not arachnophobia. In fact, my younger brother and I would collect spiders from the backyard and put them all in a container in our bedroom. At night we would put a flashlight behind our clear cage and watch all the spiders make their webs— occasionally fighting each other. I don’t believe our mom ever discovered this little secret. For some reason, as I grew older (more mature) I developed a fear of spiders despite having played with them often as a young kid. Fears can be funny like that. They can come from bad experiences or just somewhere in the back of our minds.

There’s a lot of fear in the world today! One of my favorite psalms in the Bible is Psalm 46. We read about what seems to be the worst case scenarios, but God still reigns over all. What if the earth gives way? What if the mountains are thrown into the sea? What if the wrong man becomes our new president? What if this virus never goes away? Even so, we have no reason to fear. God is bigger than our fears. Know we serve a Being with that much power should fill us with courage. What are you afraid of?