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). 

Walking with God In a Fallen World

Walking with God In a Fallen World

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

God’s desire from the very beginning of creation was to walk with man. Scripture tells us that He would walk in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). This was all undone when sin entered the world and created a chasm between God and mankind.
The theme of the Bible is the salvation of man, through Christ, to the glory of God. From the moment sin entered the world, God has been proactive in seeking a relationship with His creation. Through the perfect sacrifice of Christ, that relationship has been restored, and we are once again able to walk with God.
Even though we have peace with God again, at times it feels like we don’t have peace in our everyday lives. We turn on the news and watch as courthouses are set on fire, and a widespread virus continues to harm and kill people that we love. Yes, we have peace with God, but where is the peace in our own lives?
These are questions that most everyone has asked. But there’s one question I want us to focus on for a few moments; how does God want us to react to the events that are going on today? Let’s examine three encouraging verses that tell us how we are to conduct ourselves each day.
Proverbs 15:3. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” God sees the violence, the grieving families, the struggling Christian. But God also sees how His children respond. God is in every part of His creation, at every moment in time. We may feel like He doesn’t see, or that He is indifferent to what’s going on, but His eyes are on the evil and the good. We respond in love because we know that God is watching.
Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God not only sees what is going on, but He is with His children. The greatest of Christians still struggle with feelings of loneliness (Elijah in 1 Kings 19). Even though we walk through the shadow of death, we don’t fear the evil that we encounter because God has promised that He will be with us. We may see the hate, the hurt and the helplessness of mankind, but the comfort of God gives hope to His people.
Matthew 28:20. “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is a promise first given by Jesus to His apostles, a promise that we as Christians sometimes fail to remember. The world isn’t perfect because sin has corrupted what God has made perfect. People will do you wrong, they’ll hurt you, and they’ll do whatever they feel like doing. We have a command to fulfill, and it can only be carried out with the presence of God.
Showing love to a world that’s full of hatred can seem impossible at times, but if we will remember who we are and Whose we are, we can and will get it done. Remember that God loves you, and the church loves you. Let’s be an example to those who are without this love.
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Untied States

Untied States

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

My wife and I were watching an NCIS episode where terrorists attempt to use fake currency to carry out an attack on the U.S. power grid. Their trail was picked up when instead of “United States” on the bills, “Untied States,” was found. 

With the pandemic we’re facing, we have briefly enjoyed some unity not seen in seven decades. A lot of the partisan stuff has slowed, a lot of the animosity between political parties has simmered down, and people are beginning to treat each other like neighbors again. 

With the cautiously optimistic breakthroughs in our fight against this virus, we seem to be slipping back into the “Untied States.”  I think our enjoyment of the peace accompanying this unity will stick around and we’ll be as neighborly as we have been, even after quarantines have been lifted. We’re witnessing the ugliness of a government not unified and perhaps we will have gained some perspective as a result of this global trial. 

That feeling of relief, calm, peace, reset, unity, and love has to be what God feels when His church is unified. It is what we experience when we put others above ourselves and treat each other like family. 

We have a super cool opportunity once quarantines are lifted! I miss my family at Hebron like crazy – I’m not alone in missing my church family. We have a chance to use that momentum to love more, be more selfless, argue less, and encourage more. If we take these qualities and run with them, the church will grow like wildfire. Beyond that, the world will see the love we have and will want to be a part of it. 

John 13.35 

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Scene from a church potluck