Finding Refreshment

Finding Refreshment

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Lying in a bed for three and a half months will make you feel icky. You can only bathe with washcloths. Some nurses loaded those cloths with water and got me wetter than an Anglican baptism. Those “baths” made me feel better. However, before being discharged, I finally took a shower. That was the best. I felt refreshed. The only downside was seeing my hair come out in clumps as I washed my hair. It seems I am fated to look like the Stooge, Larry Fine.   

Where do you find your refreshment? Is it in a cool drink on a sultry day? Is it standing by a fireplace in winter? Such actions reinvigorate us. This result is what refreshment accomplishes. The sinner can find refreshment in obedience. In his second recorded sermon, Peter says: 

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3.19 NASB1995).

This refreshing comes from being immersed in Christ (cf. Acts 22.16). I would encourage any who have not yet clothed themselves in Christ to allow their faith to lead to this total submission, in which one joins the Lord in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5). No, it is not a work, nor is the power in the water. It is where we symbolically contact the blood of Christ and express a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). It is a necessity for salvation. 

Yet, there remains refreshment for the Christian as well. Paul speaks of his desire to meet with the brethren of Rome in Romans 15. He tells them to join him in prayer so his arrival will refresh him (Romans 15.32). That is an interesting word choice. In fact, this is the only time this word, συναναπαύομαι, appears in Scripture. The word means to rest along with, but here implies a spiritual refreshing.  

I like that idea of “resting with”, though, especially as it applies to Christian fellowship. We spend our weeks in the world and get beaten up by the forces of the adversary. How refreshing is it when we pause and rest with our brethren in worship and Bible study? I know I have gone to services feeling poorly, physically, only to find myself reinvigorated on my way back home. It has the same effect mentally and, most importantly, spiritually. Unfortunately, my recovery prevents me from joining the brethren currently. Still, you better believe that I eagerly await the day I can rejoin them even more than when I wished for a shower.  

It is sad when brethren find excuses to avoid refreshment since it is one of the blessings we receive in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1.3). Earthly diversions cannot reinvigorate the spirit as can God. Oh, it might bring temporary happiness, but the participant of earthly delights is left feeling empty, needing entertainment and diversion yet again. Services are not a chore when one comes seeking to worship God and rest beside their brethren.  

“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.” (Hebrews 10.24-25 NASB1995) 

Don’t you want to find your refreshment? 

We’re Different & The Same 

We’re Different & The Same 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

 

 

Dale Pollard

When it comes to the families that make up the church, what ties us together is a common bright future. While every family has its differences, one constant remains— the church. All strive to follow those guidelines laid out in scripture. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “And I’m SURE of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

The writer speaks with assurance, and that confidence is well-placed. From “His-story” we see that God always completes His projects. He never dreams; He creates. He decided to create the world and here it is. He decided to save the world, and here we are. 

Paul also would write in Romans 7-8 that the flesh tends to get in the way of the spiritual. God is perfect, but we’re not. That’s what makes us a work in progress. Aren’t we thankful that God provides the solutions to “fix” us up? 

We’re involved in a great work because there simply is no better work  than what is being done by His church. That being said, many of us struggle with overcomplicating things. We try to make sense of our individual lives, and when we leave God out it all becomes a discouraging battle. Where’s the peace? Joy? Confidence? Maybe it was left behind when we left God’s path. Thankfully God came down to earth years ago to teach us everything we need to know. We see that in His interactions with people. Even His twelve original followers were an odd group. 

Each had a diverse background. Some were Fishermen and some tax collectors. 

Each one had a unique personality too! They ranged from timid to assertive.

 Each one had spiritual battles from greed to crippling doubt.  

Yet each one rallied under His leadership and were united through a common hope. 

What’s changed? Not much. 

The personalities, talents, backgrounds, and flaws mixed together create a unique blend that make up each one of us. Yet, here we are rallied under His leadership, united in common hope. 

Several Lehman ladies (men are at the table in the foreground) enjoying “Federal Grove” the night before it (sadly) closed, being regaled with one of Kathy’s stories. I think this one was about snakes crawling out of a hole.
Should Christians “Go Galt?” 

Should Christians “Go Galt?” 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Christian monasticism arose within the fourth century AD. The proponents of monasticism felt they were able to live holier lives in isolation. There are still monasteries around today, but the movement is not nearly as popular as it used to be. I think all but a few introverts would enjoy the idea of spartan monasticism today. Besides, monasticism is antithetical to Christian teaching since it is hard to be salt and light to the world, secreting yourself away from where you can influence others (Matthew 5.13-16). But, oh, are we not vexed (oppressed) like Lot living in Sodom? (2 Peter 2.7-8) We are. And that is why we sometimes fantasize about living in a genuine, Christian community. 

That is a rather funny fantasy, though. Christians do have this community. It is called the ecclesia (the assembly or church). Early Christians availed themselves of it by meeting DAILY for worship and fellowship (Acts 2.46-47). We often use economic rationale to justify limiting our assemblies to a maximum of about four gatherings a week. But did our Christian forebearers not have to work? Did these brethren lack familial responsibilities? We must agree that they learned to make time for what was important to them. These earliest Christians truly embodied the command to seek God’s righteousness and Kingdom first (Matthew 6.33). 

However, “Going Galt” is a different concept entirely. The term comes from a dystopian novel by Ayn Rand in the same vein as George Orwell’s 1984. Rand’s book, entitled Atlas Shrugged, presents a mysterious man named John Galt who seeks to persuade those producers exploited by a heavy-handed government to withdraw to seclusion to deprive said government, termed “looters,” from continuing to use them. Ultimately, these “strikers” (striking from participation in said society) desire to establish a new capitalistic society founded on Galt’s philosophies, concepts like individualism and reason. It was a flop in its time but has since become popular among the politically conservative and libertarian.  

A person choosing to “Go Galt” in 2021 would move to an area where they can find political kinship with the existing population. In other words, to co-opt our current colorful political nomenclature, someone voting “red” would move from his “blue” majority state to one matching his voting preferences. “Going Galt” would also mean ditching businesses that have become overtly political in their messaging. A recent example of this would be the avoidance of the Coca-Cola Company for embracing critical race theory. As the current bogeyman is socialism, the idea of those advocating “Going Galt” is to deprive champions of socialism of the material needed to advance the political ideology further. Essentially, you cut off their access to taxpayers and lower their profit margins. 

Peter referred to the Old Law as being a burden no one could keep (Acts 15.10). In many ways, trying to isolate ourselves from others as Christians or “Go Galt” morally would prove an equally arduous task. It is easy to highlight a particular product to avoid, but the said product’s producer likely makes many other products that we may not escape. Or, if you have a 401(k), your mutual fund may buy into stock in the company you wish to punish. You would have to do your research. I do appreciate the idea. The problem, as always, is one of execution and consistency. 

As we often say, “We are in the world but not of it” (cf. John 17.15-18). Jesus said the only way we could avoid these types of problems would be for God to take us out of this world. However, that is not practical since He is sending us out into that world with the Gospel (cf. Matthew 28.19-20; Mark16.15-16). Ultimately, choosing where to live and work or the products one buys, as long as no one supports immorality, falls under the umbrella of Christian liberty (cf.  1 Corinthians 6.12; 10.23;8.1ff; Romans 14.1ff). I may have a problem with the direction that the Walt Disney Company has gone, but I cannot condemn you for subscribing to Disney Plus so you can watch “baby Yoda.” Disney Plus isn’t something like pornography, even if parents need to be mindful of the secular humanistic and evolutionary concepts found in Disney programming today. 

The most excellent solution for those contemplating something akin to monasticism or “Going Galt” is to lose yourself in the local church.  Seek opportunities for fellowship with your brothers and sisters. In so doing, not only do you find needed support, but you can find those to help shoulder your burdens as you help to shoulder theirs (Galatians 6.2,10). The church, after all, is one of those heavenly places where our blessings may be found (Ephesians 1.3).   

WHAT VIRTUAL WORSHIP CANNOT ACCOMPLISH

WHAT VIRTUAL WORSHIP CANNOT ACCOMPLISH

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

This is not a judgment against those of us who have stayed home, especially those vulnerable, for whatever period of time to protect ourselves from legitimate risk of contracting the Coronavirus. It is an attempt to exhort and encourage those of us who have concluded that participating virtually meets what God intends for the assemblies. While we may get to see the church worship and engage in Bible class and receive edification, we are missing quite a bit of what God designed for the church by assembling together.

What can’t we accomplish when we remain in the virtual setting?

  • We cannot stimulate one another to either love or good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
  • We cannot exhort one another (Heb. 10:25).
  • We cannot speak to, teach, or admonish one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19). 
  • We cannot come together and edify (1 Cor. 14:26). 
  • We cannot welcome visitors from the community who have come to the assemblies.
  • We cannot engage in the enriching, faith-building, and faith-preserving fellowship the early church found so essential (Acts 2:42ff). 
  • We cannot congregate, as they did (Acts 4:32). 
  • We cannot come together and eat the Lord’s Supper, as they did (1 Cor. 11:20,33). 

Let’s not forget the responsibility God puts upon each Christian to all others who assemble. Worship is not just personal and vertical, it is also horizontal. 

I met the mom and brother of my good friend, Al Washington, last night at the Palm Beach Lakes church of Christ. They are members of the Third St. congregation.
ESSENTIAL

ESSENTIAL

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

  • Grocery store–Place where we buy food to sustain our physical bodies
  • Restaurant–Place where we pay someone else to provide food for our physical bodies
  • School–Place where our children receive an education to prepare them to live on earth as adults
  • Hospitals and Doctor’s office–Place where we go to address issues with our physical health
  • Workplace–Place where we go to earn money to take care of our physical needs

There are other places that have remained open or reopened whether to provide what we’d deem essential or places that are more diversionary but which various experts call essential to economic or social survival (malls, bookstores, ballfields and arenas, etc.). In fact, “essential” can be put into a lot of categories–academic, economic, social, emotional, medical, physical, and spiritual.

Pandemic restrictions have impacted and altered public behavior for almost a year. It’s more than mask mandates, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and the severe reduction of handshakes and hugs. It has been the reduction of personal interaction at the assemblies. Many congregations have devised virtual means of meeting for Bible class and worship. Just like virtual doctor visits, online instruction, and telecommuting lack the desired qualities of the in-person alternative, so it is with the virtual gathering. 

The first-century church labored under restrictions, too. The threat was not a virus, but often a virulent government hostile to their faith. Christians in various places faced severe persecution and even the death penalty if this identity was known (Mat. 24:9; Rev. 2:10; 1 Pet. 4:12-16). The assemblies were an easy way for Rome to know a Christian’s identity. Despite the potential cost of discipleship, what do we find the early Christians doing and being commanded to do? As a good preacher friend, Terrence Brownlow-Dindy, recently said, Acts 20:7 not only told the saints when to take the Lord’s Supper (the first day of the week) but also how (come together). Despite governmental interference and opposition to them, Christians were still commanded to assemble (Heb. 10:25). It was essential to be present to stimulate each other to love and good deeds (10:24). It was essential to be present to encourage one another (10:25). It was essential to be present to prepare for Christ’s second coming (10:25). 

What’s the difference between the risks incurred in Cracker Barrel, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Hobby Lobby walking aisles, touching items, and standing in line with strangers and coming together and running any risks we might incur by assembling together for worship and Bible class? The commodities and services provided at places like those at the beginning of this article serve us only in this life. The wisdom of God, who designed the church including the importance of coming together, commands assembling to address our most essential need. It is absolutely true that Christianity is not confined to the church building, a great lesson we discovered or remembered at the start of this crisis. Perhaps, though, we inferred from this that actually coming together was less essential than shopping, going to school, and going to work. 

I have seen brothers and sisters in Christ at stores, restaurants, weddings, and funerals who have not come into the church building to give and receive the fellowship and encouragement God made essential both for our own spiritual health and that of our spiritual family. Scripture repeatedly tells us the earth and all its works will be burned up some day (2 Pet. 3:10). Our souls will never die. As we prioritize the essentials, what is more essential than that? The dictionary defines essential as “absolutely necessary; extremely important.” If anything qualifies, our assemblies do. 

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!
Proceed

Proceed

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

I have some hobbies/passions that require caution: motorcycles, shooting, off-roading, auto mechanics. These are things that could be dangerous, but are enjoyable and safe if appropriate caution is used.
 
The reason any person would get on a motorcycle or under their vehicle or into a swamp or behind an optic is the reward associated with those activities. There’s no freedom like riding back roads or around beautiful scenery on a cruiser. Saving hundreds on auto repairs makes the effort worth it. Seeing how much mud/water/rock/terrain you can keep moving through is a blast. Racing the timer and improving consistency, all while hearing the satisfying “ding” of a steel target is exhilarating.
 
If an activity is enjoyable – potentially risky, but fun – we tend to do it anyway, with appropriate caution. Even those who don’t enjoy these kinds of activities are likely licensed drivers and are glad to assume the risks involved with driving (according to the WHO, 1.25 million die in a wreck worldwide every year, with an additional 20-50 million getting injured or disabled).
 
I cannot justify being willing to assume risks in many other aspects of my life, but cutting out the one aspect that impacts eternity. The CDC has accidents as the third leading cause of death in the U.S. Most of us drive to go anywhere or do anything more than a mile or so away, and we do this without a second thought.
 
Even if Christian fellowship were the most dangerous activity possible (for many in the early church it was, for some today it might be), we should be willing to pursue it. We could never hope for a greater reward than we will receive for the risk we might assume when we come together as a church.
 
(Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25)
Let’s Get Back Together

Let’s Get Back Together

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
 
At the beginning of the pandemic, I wrote an article about Hebrews 10.25. In that article, we discussed the difference between a temporary stay on public gatherings and forsaking the assemblies. These are not the same thing!
 
That was probably 8 months or so ago. Many still face an uncomfortable decision: risk exposure to sickness, possibly giving it to family or friends, or violate public health orders to assemble.
 
I’d like to consider a few points:
 
  1. We are to obey government as long as it doesn’t violate God’s law (Romans 13). At some point, these recommendations violate God’s command for us to assemble.
  2. Some have become accustomed to worshipping from home or in a very limited capacity. Some have even voiced a preference for virtual worship. Fellowship, unity, relationship, and presence are a huge part of what gets us through this life with a strong faith!
  3. Many are strongly divided over the varied issues in this pandemic. Some have allowed this to create tension between members of the church. We must remember Romans 14 – if it isn’t a salvation issue, we shouldn’t make it into an issue (see also II Timothy 2.23, 24).
  4. At some point, we need to set aside our fear or any other reason we may have and worship together again. The early church faced the very real threat of death because of their faith and sometimes met in secret because of it.
 
This is not an article intending to downplay the seriousness of the virus that has made 2020 such a nightmare. Many have lost loved ones because of it. But it is my hope that we will move past our fears and fellowship together again!
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! 

 

 

Monday Through Saturday Relationships

Monday Through Saturday Relationships

Gary Pollard

We get an interesting glimpse into the life of the early church in Acts 2.44-47. While it is not practical for us to live in that same way, there is one principle that we should examine. The early church spent a great deal of time together outside of their worship on the first day of the week. Acts 2.46 says, “And day by day, they were devoted to the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all of the people.” What’s going on here? The members of the church dedicated time every day to growing in their relationships with one another. To them, “church” was so much more than just showing up for worship every time the doors were open. It was the Monday through Saturday relationships that fortified their faith. 
What was the result of this dedication? “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2.47). Are we likely to live for a faith we have not invested in? Are we likely to stand up under trials if we do not have a sense of community in the church? Are we likely to resist temptation without strong ties in God’s family? The early church faced trials we could never understand, yet they remained faithful because of their strong relationships and resulting faith. 
The early church relied on constant contact with one another to help them build their faith. Nothing builds a Christian’s faith more than being around a group of people who want the same thing (to live like Christ), genuinely care for one another, and share a common goal (heaven).