WHAT WOULD I GRAB?

WHAT WOULD I GRAB?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

John Castillo Kennedy writes a riveting account of the fire that swept through San Francisco in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake that struck on April 18, 1906. The earthquake and resulting fires, which killed 3000 people, destroyed 80% of the city. Among the dead was the city fire chief. Firefighters, unaccustomed to using dynamite to create firebreaks, caused several of the fires. 

At one point early in the fires, according to Castillo, the spread of the flames surprised people living along Pine, Bush, and Sutter Streets, forcing them to flee immediately. They had been confident that the flames would not reach them there. The author says,

“Quickly filled trunks grated up the hills. Wagons, mostly pulled by men, rattled over the rough cobblestones. Baby carriages and toy express wagons rolled along packed full with the ‘things’ people had snatched up in the flight. Pianos were bumped along the sidewalks–some went to pieces in the process. Sewing machines slipped along on their rollers with stacks of bedding and the like lashed to them. Women had their valuables on their person, or carried trinkets Gypsywise in handkerchiefs. Men wore columns of hats five-high. Some carried only a book. Parrots jabbered and scolded from many cages. Some people had blankets. Girls usually had bandboxes. Boys stretched poles between them and carried, suspended there, bundles of clothing and provisions. Once it was only a ham” (83). 

These panic-stricken people, with no time to prepare, reached for the thing that had the most practical or sentimental value to them. Something made people faced with total loss and threat of life to lug heavy items or pets or food. Many of the choices seem irrational. Perhaps they were in shock or acting in impulse. In essays and contests asking people what they would grab if their house was on fire and they could only grab one thing, they have cited passports, wills, legal documents, insurance policies, personal papers, portable hard drives, phones, etc.

I’m trying to put myself in their shoes. If I was in one of the many neighborhoods forced to flee my home with no time to spare, what would I have been sure to grab? How long would it take my mind to settle on sentimental family items like old photos, my wedding video, or the boys’ baby books? Would I be relieved if I could make it out with my Bible, though I saved nothing else?

I do not judge those folks with their bizarre, split-second decisions. For some reason, it just made me do some introspection. What does my priority list look like? What do I value most in my life and in my home? What would I try to be sure to preserve?

Perhaps the answers to those questions is best provided by my choices in ordinary, every-day actions. I want my wife, children, fellow-Christians, and, most of all, my God to see from my life that they come before the things of this world. The things will all ultimately burn (2 Pet. 3:10). It is the relationships that will outlast the final, global conflagration. I pray that my influence and example will save them from the fire (Jude 23).  

Reference: Kennedy, John Castillo. The Great Earthquake And Fire: San Francisco, 1906 (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1963). 

 

Persecution And Hope (Part One)

Persecution And Hope (Part One)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Gaius Cornelius Tacitus (AD 56-120) wrote two secular historical works describing the reigns of Tiberius, Claudius, Nero, and Gabba, Otho, Vespasian, and Vitellius (Annals and Histories).
 
He was the son-in-law of Agricola, the Roman General responsible for Roman expansion throughout Europe, especially northern Britain. He was not a Christian by any means, but a patriotic Roman with a family heritage tied to its conquests.
 
In the following excerpt, Tacitus mentions Jesus (referred to as Christus) and details the persecution of early Christians. I have abbreviated some of the excerpt (ellipsis), given contextual explanation (brackets), and added emphasis (bolded text). The information in his writings is fascinating, but I found the following to be shareable.
 
“…The next thing was to seek means of propitiating the gods [because of the burning of Rome], and recourse was had to the Sibylline books… But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order.
 
Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition [of resurrection], thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome…
 
Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.
 
Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus, while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good, but to glut one man’s cruelty, that they were being destroyed.”
 
Annals of Tacitus Book XV
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRIVATE OFFENSES

INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRIVATE OFFENSES

Neal Pollard

The Son of God gives specific instructions for what to do when a spiritual family member sins. Jesus clearly says, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Notice the Divine pattern. 

  • Perpetration (15a)–“If you brother sins.” This is what initiates the situation.
  • Presentation (15b)–“Go and show him his fault in private.” Paul would teach this later (Gal. 6:1). Notice that this is to be done privately.
  • Aspiration (15c)–“If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” Ideally, this is where the matter should end.
  • Escalation (16-17)–Jesus tells one what to do if a sinner refuses to listen. Start by taking one or two. If that does not work, then tell it to the church.
  • Repudiation (18)–If all three of these approaches fail to win the sinner, then you reject them.

Tragically, we very often disobey Jesus’ instructions about this and fail to understand that rebelling against His commandment then makes us a sinner, too.  How often does it happen that a person, rather than dealing directly with the sinning brother, tells someone else? Then, that someone tells another. Soon, a whole group or even the whole church knows about the sin. Often, something that was private and even between just two people is made public by gossipers who continue to spread the matter. In some cases, those who hear and spread the matter never even speak to the offender. This prevents the sinner from being aware of who knows about it or being able to reconcile. It can even be the case that the sinner has repented and handled the matter with the original offender, but now others are brought into the matter after the fact. Those who have come to hear about the situation treat the sinner “as a Gentile and a tax collector,” without ever once speaking to them about it. Rifts form and relationships are affected. 

When we fail to do things God’s way, we will make matters worse. May we consider passages like Mark 7:21-23, where Jesus places “big” sins like “fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness” alongside “little” sins like “deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.” Jesus’ analysis is that “all” these things are “evil” and “defile the man.”

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What To See When False Prophets Speak

What To See When False Prophets Speak

Neal Pollard

Peter has a sobering warning for the church, writing, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Pet. 2:1). He warns them about the model, the methods, and the message of these men. The counterparts of these modern messengers is the false prophets of old.

Jeremiah lived at a time when such prophets flourished, and the result of their work was the destruction of the people. Jeremiah 23 is a graphic depiction of what God helped Jeremiah see as he looked at and listened to these sinful seers. Notice that in Jeremiah 23:9-40), he saw:

  • Tears (9-10)–Jeremiah was heartbroken, trembling, and overcome, because he knew their message was different from God’s Word and it was taking people off course. 
  • Pollution (11-12)–The Lord found their way wickedness, and this pollution made for a slippery path that would make them fall in calamity and punishment. 
  • Offensiveness (13-14)–They looked to the wrong spiritual source and it led the people of God to commit horrible depravity. 
  • Tragedy (15)–Their message was going to cause their own spiritual sickness and death.
  • Emptiness (16-18)–The message is from their own imagination and not from the Lord’s mouth, so they tell those who hate God they’ll have peace and those who walk in stubbornness that everything will be fine.
  • Storms (19-20)–The storm is the tempest of God’s wrath upon the heads of these false messengers. 
  • Audacity (21-25)–They ran, but God didn’t send them; They prophesied, but God didn’t speak to them; God was right there listening when they said, “I had a dream, I had a dream!”
  • Heart Trouble (26-27)–The prophets had spiritual heart trouble, and their message was loved by people with heart trouble. It resulted in both of them forgetting God. 
  • Straw (28)–Just as straw and grain are totally different things, so is God’s message and their false message. 
  • Judgment (29-40)–God’s Word is like fire and a hammer. He is against their Word and against them for misusing their speaking abilities and leading His people astray. They don’t furnish the people with “the slightest benefit.” They cause the people to forget what truth is.  The end result is tragedy. 

So many can have a message that sounds good, makes one feel good, but does no good! In fact, their message contradicts what God said in His Word. As we grow our Bible knowledge, it will help us see these messengers and their messages for what they are. God’s Word is a blessing to us, both now and eternally. But, measure their message against the Master’s. Embrace only the words that are from Him! Reject the words that come from them!

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The Peril Of “Covering Up”

The Peril Of “Covering Up”

Neal Pollard

Misty Ann Weaver made a tragic decision.  The Houston-area licensed vocational nurse is charged in the burning death of three people after she started a fire in her six-story office building.  Why did she take such horrible measures that resulted in the unnecessary, tragic deaths of these victims?  She was  apparently behind on an audit for her plastic surgeon boss, and she feared being fired.  She just wanted to start a small fire, enough to cause a distraction and buy herself more time.  Obviously, she accomplished more than she intended.

Ms. Weaver is an extreme example of the tendency to try and avoid consequences by resorting to sin to “cover up” a shortcoming or failure.  While few of us will wind up facing three felony murder counts, we are all tempted to “cover up” in this way.  When we fail to study for a test, we may resort to cheating to “cover up” that fact.  When we have a low self-image, we may resort to gossip or backbiting to “cover up” perceived flaws about ourselves.  When we are afraid of negative consequences for not meeting some responsibility or expectation, we may turn to lying to “cover up” that inadequacy.   The irony is seen in that the “cover up” inevitably puts us in greater spiritual trouble than before we engaged in it.

We may “cover up” for fear of the disapproval of others, out of embarrassment or shame, or out of concern for certain repercussions.   Yet, to turn to sin to shield ourselves from the ramifications of our actions is to compound the problem.  Let us have the courage to face God and man, to provide things honest in the sight of all men (cf. Romans 12:17).  Israel was warned about the danger of adding sin to sin (Isaiah 30:1).  It is strength of character to do our best in our every endeavor, but it is also strength of character, when we have failed to so do, to courageously, honestly “face the music.”  However we rationalize, the fallout from this will be less severe than the “cover up” is!

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What Playing With Fire Can Do To Married Couples

What Playing With Fire Can Do To Married Couples

Neal Pollard

The video from a gas station surveillance camera shows the baffling details. 37-year-old Austin Dawkins was playing with a cigarette lighter and got too close to his gas tank as his 30-year-old wife, Jessica, stood beside him at his truck as he was pumping gas.  Flames flare up, Jessica runs away, and Austin lifts the gas nozzle from tank.  This sets his wife on fire, and she is seen running as the flames envelop her.  She received second and third degree burns to her legs, arms, back, and head.  Her husband was arrested and charged with reckless conduct, a misdemeanor.  If he has a conscience, the far greater penalty will be shame, guilt, and regret at what his careless conduct did to his wife (www.myfoxatlanta.com, 11/2/13).

The macabre moments caught on video, showing the woman on fire, are graphic.  No one can doubt the danger and seriousness of the situation.  Spiritually, men and women so often play with fire unable to physically see the consequences of their actions.  Whether allowing themselves to become romantically involved with someone other than their spouse or even courting temptation, they put themselves into a very precarious position.  In the very context of this moral problem, Solomon writes, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be burned? So is the one who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; Whoever touches her will not go unpunished” (Prov. 6:27-29).  The Bible illustrates marital infidelity to playing with fire.

Perhaps one rationalizes indiscreet words, actions, or flirtations as harmless, innocent, and victimless.  Yet, nothing could be further from the truth.  The flames can spread beyond just the man and woman, doing harm to family, friends, and the church.  It can ravage so many lives and leave the perpetrators with an enormous load of guilt. How much better and wiser to see adultery for the dangerous entity it is and leave it alone (cf. Prov. 6:32-33)?