The Law Of The Lord

The Law Of The Lord

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

How much does your Bible mean to you? Each time we pick it up and read from its pages, we are reading the very words of God. God has revealed His Character, His will, and His love through inspired men. Each time we open our Bibles we are seeing the mind of God. 

What an awe inspiring fact to think about.

We aren’t the first ones to feel this way.

In response to the perfect Law of God, David wrote Psalm 19. It is a tribute to the perfection of scripture. As we read through this chapter, David puts into words these feelings of awe and gratitude.

He begins by stating a fact that has always been true.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”

In a psalm dedicated to the perfect Law of the Lord, David starts by praising the Author. The God of creation, who can be seen in every aspect of our world, is the One responsible for writing such a perfect book. We can look around and the world declares the glory of God. The Author of life itself gave us a book that leads to eternal life.

In verse 7 David describes the Law of the Lord as being perfect. Notice what this perfect Law does for us: it “revives the soul.” The words of God are sure and steadfast. They are truly perfect and are ever relevant to us, His creation.

We continue reading and he goes on to say that God’s Word:

  1. Gives us wisdom (wisdom we would otherwise never have)
  2. Is always right (there is no doubting, thinking that they might be wrong)
  3. His commandments are pure (no false motive)
  4. His word enlightens our eyes (we can now see the truth)
  5. His rules are true
  6. His word is righteous

With such a perfect Law, it is only natural that we should desire it more than Gold.
David says in verse 10 that the words we read in scripture are “sweeter than honey.”
His response to God’s word should be every Christian’s response. We should value and cherish God’s perfect Law.

The Bible is a blessing like no other. In its pages we are warned about the things we should avoid. By keeping His commands we receive a great reward. Psalm 19 is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful book.

With these facts in mind, how much does God’s book mean to you?

Word Studies: “MAJESTY”

Word Studies: “MAJESTY”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

We will be looking at the word “majesty” by request in today’s article. This series will look at words used in our English translations that aren’t used in modern communication or are otherwise unusual. Today, majesty usually shows up as an adjective for natural phenomena (a majestic sunrise/sunset, majestic scene, etc.). 

As a disclaimer, Hebrew studies are not my forte. For those of you with a knowledge of Hebrew, I welcome corrections. All material concerning Hebrew usage comes from the Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament or Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Volume 5. 

In the Old Testament, it is used to describe the beauty or awesomeness of nature. Leviticus 23.40 uses “splendid.” In Isaiah 53.2, and it means “physically attractive.” Being impressive or inspiring awe/wonder is how the word is used in reference to God, although descriptions of kings are also appropriate (Isaiah 35.2). Speaking of royalty, majesty is used to describe their power and accomplishments (see Daniel 4.30, 5.18 for examples). In the Old Testament, majesty can be understood as impressive, having honor, or as the effect left on an observer of a display of power or awesomeness. 

In the New Testament, it means to have high respect or incredible qualities (see II Peter 1.16). In that passage, Peter says that he was a firsthand witness of the majesty of Jesus. This is incredible, considering Isaiah 53 says that His appearance wasn’t special or spectacular. The majesty Jesus had on earth was due to His nature, not His appearance. Majesty is also used in reference to having high respect because of an impressive performance or display of power (Luke 9.43). In that passage, Jesus healed a boy who had a particularly violent demon. After returning him to a normal state, witnesses were blown away at God’s majesty. It was obvious that the power necessary to correct the boy’s issues was preternatural. They observed an incredible event and understood its source to be God’s power. That power is an aspect of God’s majesty. 

We are impressed with God’s majesty when we look at nature. The universe is vast and incredible! There are stars so massive they make the sun look puny. Even single-cell organisms on earth are incredibly complex. As advanced as medical science is today, we still do not understand many of the processes of the body. Count how many times some variant of the phrase, “We’re not sure how this works,” is used in clinical studies on multiple classes of medications or treatments. The complexity of our makeup is awe-inspiring! When we are impressed by nature’s power or beauty, we get a glimpse of God’s majesty. 

Sprouting Our Wings

Sprouting Our Wings

Dale Pollard

The kit comes with everything you need to raise your very own Sea Monkeys. I remember the very first batch of these strange creatures I grew when I was a young boy. A small package of tiny brown eggs are dumped into purified water and then after two weeks they’ve hatched into real swimming organisms. That change is fascinating and it’s almost mesmerizing to watch them all dart around inside their aquarium. In the animal world the process of metamorphosis is very common and we’re not too surprised when it happens. It’s interesting and exciting, but it’s expected. We aren’t confused when a tadpole turns into a frog or when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, because it’s natural. 

In Romans 12:2 we read that as Christians we are to undergo a drastic spiritual transformation by the “renewal of the mind.” The Greek word used for “transformation” here is where we get the word “metamorphosis” from, and that’s very telling. The idea is that the transformation process we are to undergo is not a small change like getting a haircut or getting contacts, but a dramatic and radical change. We are to have an entirely different mind, heart, and outlook on life. We have been transformed into someone and something entirely different. In the animal world there is an essential process involved in metamorphosis. If the caterpillar never spins a cocoon, then it could never hope to sprout wings. If the caterpillar leaves the cocoon too soon then it can’t expect to be as developed and healthy as it needs to be. There is a natural time allotted for the change to occur. Christians are expected to grow but not to be completely transformed overnight; we, too, have a process. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not be proactive in growing our faith, but it should be a reminder that if we’re not working toward this transformation we will remain in the same state in which we are now. That is unnatural.

Why does that caterpillar slowly climb that tall tree or take the time to painstakingly wrap itself in that cocoon? Because it knows it wasn’t meant to be a caterpillar forever. The work it takes to be transformed and to sprout the wings of a great and mature faith is a difficult process, but it’s worth it. That’s what God expects from us and He has the power to help us make this amazing change. Our prayer lives and our time spent in His Word are crucial to our development. We should let the end goal be the motivation to press on and allow ourselves to be completely transformed. One day that effort will show when we see our new bodies (Philippians 3:21) and we’ve reached our final glorious destination. We will live forever with the Savior who transformed us. 

Breaking The All-Time Assist Record

Breaking The All-Time Assist Record

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The FIBA basketball glossary defines an assist as a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a score by a field goal (a basket scored on any shot). When I was in High School and college, Duke University had a guard named Bobby Hurley who would break the all-time NCAA record for assists with 1076 in 140 games (sports-reference.com). That means an average of almost eight times per game, he gave up the ball to a teammate whose three-point shots, slam dunks, or other baskets made the crowds stand up and cheer. While knowledgeable enthusiasts of the game appreciate the importance of the “assist man,” the average fan may miss the vital contribution of the one making that assist. But the very concept suggests unselfishness and one with a team mentality. For them, satisfaction and enjoyment comes in a well-timed, well-placed contribution that allows others to get recognition and praise.

Scripture places a great premium on the person who assists others. Our first thought may be financially. Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he had taken care of his own financial needs (and of those with him) while doing missionary work, recalling words of Jesus not recorded in the gospels that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In the matter of “giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15), Paul encouraged a mindset that applied to more than just monetary things. It was not a mind which sought “after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (2:21). It was a “humility of mind” that could “regard one another as more important than” themselves, that could “look out” not merely for their “own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3-4). It is the Christ-like heart that chooses to “please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-3); cf. 1 Cor. 10:24,33). Oh, to say with Paul, “So then we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19).

Would you like to be the assist-leader in your home, in your congregation, and in your community? Look for ways to put others in the spotlight for their efforts and kindness. That may mean reorienting how you see life, looking to give glory and not needing to have it. What a righteous revolution would occur when our focus would be on how to make others look good, helping others to be appreciated and recognized, and setting others up for praise and admiration. It will in no way hinder us from receiving the highest accolade of all, given by the most important witness–the One who sees all with perfect perspective (Ecc. 12:14). A “well done” from Him has eternal implications (Mat. 25:21,23). What more do we need than that?!

The Shadow of Things to Come 

The Shadow of Things to Come 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Standing before a lantern flashlight, I happened to notice my shadow on the wall. I won’t lie. I was displeased by what I saw. My large stomach? No, that is not what bothered me. That has been with me most of my life. What disturbed me was seeing evidence of how advanced my ankylosing spondylitis has become. To put what I witnessed in self-deprecating humor: my shadow confirmed that a certain cathedral in France could hire me to be a bell ringer. I should start practicing my dialogue. “Sanctuary!”  

Though I am confident of my person at this point in my life, I appear to be hunched over with insecurity since my head seems downcast. I admit to being perturbed by that since confidence is a part of the initial impression one makes on another. I must bend my knees to straighten upright (somewhat). It isn’t easy to walk with your knees bent! I take a TNF inhibitor to slow the progress. (Ankylosing spondylitis has no cure.) However, my shadow is a preview of things yet to come, the substance of who I will later be. If only my material substance was going to be as marvelous as the spiritual “substance” I will eventually enjoy (1 John 3.2).

Paul calls the Old Testament the “shadow of things to come” (Colossians 2.17). The New American Standard Bible adds the adjective “mere” (“a mere shadow”). Yet, what the Old Testament portended was the wondrous substance of Christ. It is odd to see the shadow of something before seeing that which cast the shadow, but that was the case with God’s eternal plan. One might philosophize about humanity’s ability to witness the substance first that he could not do so.  

Suppose you recall the people’s reaction to Moses’ glowing face after he had been in God’s audience (Exodus 34.29-30). In that case, you ponder whether they could have endured seeing something as glorious as the transfigured Christ, like Peter (Matthew 17.1ff). Whatever the reason, God had selected the optimum time for the incarnation of Christ. That time coincided with the Roman Empire’s days (Daniel 2.40-45; Galatians 4.4). However, even then, the appearance of Christ remained as unexpected to them as vegetation sprouting from the parched ground (Isaiah 53.2). 

Paul said that this “shadow” served like a tutor taking people to Christ (Galatians 3.23-25). A “tutor” during the days of Paul was a servant who took the master’s children to their teacher. In the twenty-first century, we might call the Old Testament the “bus driver.” I can recall several of the bus drivers I had in my youth. I think a couple of drivers would serve as a good role model, but at least one would have invited me along to commit mischief.  

We note that bus drivers only need a high school diploma with no disrespect intended toward bus drivers. (I’ve had family serve as bus drivers.) On the other hand, teachers must go to college and earn a specialized degree. The teacher is the one to whom you entrust the child’s education. Yet, we have people showing a preference for the “bus driver” today. These prefer the shadow to the substance. That preference is not in the best interest of his or her undying spirit. 

In what ways do people show a preference for the shadow? For example, in worship, they might indicate a preference for manmade mechanical instruments of music allowable under the Old Testament but unauthorized in the New Testament (cf. Ephesians 5.19; Colossians 3.16; Hebrews 13.15). In Hebrews 8-10, the Hebrews’ writer discusses at length the necessity for covenant change and the transference of authority from one to the other. Saying one can use a guitar or piano because David employed a lyre in his songs overlooks that David lived in the shadow. 

People also show a preference for the shadow when doing things like following the kosher diet of Judaism for religious purposes. Some of these same people will likewise insist that the day of worship remains on Saturday. Even though Gregory XIII, an apostate from the Faith, changed the calendar, he did nothing to change the verbiage indicating Sunday (“the first day of the week”) as the day of observing Christ’s memorial feast and giving of one’s means (Acts 20.7; 1 Corinthians 16.1-2). We might also note that when people prefer the religious use of iconography and incense, they likewise demonstrate a desire to live in the shadow rather than walking by faith (2 Corinthians 5.7). 

Yes, the Old Testament was only the shadow of things to come. It cannot save (Hebrews 10.1-4). We can enjoy and fellowship with the Substance, Jesus Christ. Come out from the shadow today! Live in the blessed Sonshine of Jesus Christ.   

Going To The Son Road

Going To The Son Road

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

Neal Pollard
Avalanche Lake hike (Glacier Natl. Park)

It has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, going to northern Montana to see Glacier National Park. Though I lived only a long day’s drive from it for 13 years, it took moving across the country before we made the trip. Sometimes, the event cannot live up to the hype, but that was not the case with this experience. The beauty is as diverse as it is breathtaking. While there is so much to see, some of the most memorable sights are to be found along a route in the park known as the Going-To-The-Sun Road.

It has to be 50 of the most beautiful miles on the planet, with diverse wonders. You’ll see mountain streams cutting through the landscape.

There are breathtaking views of the northern Rocky Mountains throughout the length of this iconic road.

And, of course, there are the lakes that dot this God-kissed path.

There may be some impressive, enjoyable creations of man, but no one can outdo the Master Creator for displays of beauty. I’m glad I took some pictures, but there is no way I could ever forget what I saw.

I could not help thinking about how such an experience reinforces my faith in the existence of God or how it shows me what kind of God He is. How could anyone see what is on display in places like that park, then come away denying Him or concluding that mere random chance produced it?

But, given the name of this road, I also could not help but think about an analogy Jesus used when He walked the earth. He referred to the path of discipleship, following Him, as the narrow way (Mat. 7:14). It is a one-lane road, a singular path (“the way,” John 14:6). It can be an uphill climb (Acts 14:22; 1 Pet. 2:21). But, not only is there much beauty to be found along the journey (John 10:10), the payoff is without rival (Mat. 10:22; Rev. 21:1ff).

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open only for a season and, though park officials can estimate when it will close each year (mid-to-late October), this cannot be precisely predicted. The road that leads to the Son is likewise open only for a season (Heb. 9:27), but no one knows when that road will forever be closed (Mat. 24:36; 25:10).

It breaks my heart to realize that most people are not on the “Going-to-the Son” road. They have charted a path that may bring them pleasure for a season (Heb. 11:25), but it will end in their eternal destruction (Mat. 25:46). Jesus has His disciples here to show others the way to Him (Mat. 28:19). He is preparing a place far superior to this world (John 14:2-3), a place we should be looking for (2 Pet. 3:13) and longing for (Heb. 11:16).

For all its tears and sorrows, the road of life is full of so much beauty, too. There is never a regret in taking the path of the Savior. But, there are lost and weary travelers who need our help to find it, too. May we find someone today to introduce to the “Going-to-the-Son Road.”

It’s A “Miracle”?

It’s A “Miracle”?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

It is tempting to believe that an incredible recovery, acquisition of a needed job or asset, or escape from a major life issue is an example of the miraculous. In the religious world, a miracle is something a few believe can be invoked with prayer, a special religious service, or even a social media post (“pray that ______ will be healed by a miracle from God”).
Despite living in an age where notions of the supernatural are considered unscientific or are chalked up to circumstances we simply don’t understand yet, there is still much confusion surrounding the miraculous.
Miracles served a specific purpose both in the Old and New Testaments: they were designed to glorify God. Parting the Red Sea, striking a rock to get water, a talking donkey, an endless supply of oil and flour, the sun standing still, and all of the other miracles were – by design – impossible to perform without divine help. The Hebrew word for miracle meant “a sign or wonder” (Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament). Its purpose was to prove to the recipient that God was in control, was all powerful, was perfect, righteous, to be feared, and to be obeyed. Miracles were also used to prove that someone’s message was actually from God or that God was with them.
In the New Testament, miracles served to prove that Jesus was the Son of God and that the Apostles’ message was certainly from God. Water was turned into wine, the dead were raised, sicknesses were healed, people who were uneducated could suddenly speak multiple languages, predict the future, read someone’s mind, etc. The Greek word for miracle meant “a deed that exhibits the ability to function powerfully” (BDAG 263). These deeds were impossible to perform without God’s help, and they served a specific purpose: to prove that a message came from God, or to prove that a purpose originated with God.
While it certainly is a nice sentiment that an otherwise unlikely recovery or escape is an example of the miraculous, it’s important to remember that miracles served a specific purpose no longer relevant to our time. We no longer need miracles to prove our message comes from God because we have His complete and perfect word in scripture (I Corinthians 13).
Not having miracles in our world may be a downer to some, but we have this to look forward to: a place without sin for those who die faithful (II Peter 3.13). A place without death for those who die in Christ (Revelation 20.14). A place without sorrow for those who sleep in God after a lifelong battle in this sinful world (Revelation 21.4).
Miracles existed because this world is fallen (Romans 8). Their purpose was to demonstrate God’s power over Satan and sin in a world characterized by all that cannot coexist with goodness. Those who are living life in view of the next find hope and comfort in the miracle of Scripture, the miracle that will bring us home if we follow it.

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A view of the Valley of Aijalon, where God caused the sun to stand still. 

LESSONS FROM ADVERSITY: LIVING WITH ONGOING ADVERSITY

LESSONS FROM ADVERSITY: LIVING WITH ONGOING ADVERSITY

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard 

While in the exceptional care of the physicians of the University of North Carolina Healthcare System, I met Dr. Alan Siqueiros as he was completing his Fellowship. He could tell I was depressed. My lung function was at 25% from my history of three pulmonary emboli. I had no prospects for a “normal” future. Yet, Dr. Siqueiros left me with some words of exhortation, since he was about to depart for Yale’s Danbury Hospital to do his Residency. “You’re a bright young man. You may not have the health you wanted, but you have a sharp mind. You’re still young. If I were you, I would focus on developing my mind and see where that leads.”

 

There’s something to be said about doing what you can with what you have at your disposal, isn’t there? The woman with the costly oil of spikenard did what she could when she took her costly oil and anointed Jesus’ head. When people complained she wasted something precious, Jesus told them to leave her alone since she had done what she could for Him (Mark 14.1-9).  A woman in the first century had limited options for service and this was a risky step. Even so, she was motivated to do what she could with what was available to her. Jesus understood and appreciate her effort.

 

We all expect our trials to be swift, don’t we? We don’t anticipate the possibility that we may find ourselves in a situation where adversity persists and may not go away. If you have an illness, others may see your adversity and help. Even so, there are also those forms of adversities people face on their own since no one else notices it (e.g. unequally yoked to an unbelieving spouse). So, if you are living with ongoing adversity, what can you do?

 

First, accept God’s sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12.1-10). You don’t have to enjoy adversity, but trust God’s grace to give you a reason to rejoice, even if only in His strength. His strength shines through your weakness, when you’re living faithfully.

 

Second, go ahead and do what you can, even if it’s just with a box of “costly oil of spikenard.” As we’ve seen, even a simple act has its place when used to God’s glory. Christ has entrusted us with the gifts we may use (Ephesians 4.7-8).

 

Third, don’t compare yourself to others. We each have our own cross to carry (Luke 14.27). And the execution of our duties produce the results God intends (1 Corinthians 3.5-7).

 

Lastly, keep going (Hebrews 12.1-4). We know that we will only receive the crown of life if death finds us faithful (Revelation 2:10).

 

The nature of your adversity may be ongoing. It may be something you feel you face alone. However, the sufficient grace of God, coupled with the tools with which He has entrusted all of us, permits even those living amidst adversity to live a fulfilling life leading to our eternal home.

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WRONG QUESTION: “WHO’S THE GREATEST?”

WRONG QUESTION: “WHO’S THE GREATEST?”

Neal Pollard

It was the late ’70s and I was spending the night with my best friends, Patrick and Jody Smith.  We had just finished watching The Bionic Man on TV, and there was a special on Muhammad Ali.  I can still remember his banter with Howard Cosell and the gifted boxer looking at the camera and saying, “I-am-the-greatest!”

“Who is the greatest?” is a burning question in men’s minds.  We want to know who’s the greatest.  Whatever the profession, endeavor, or skill, there are folks vying for the top spot.  People once immortalized for feats and accomplishments, like Tom Courtney, Neil Armstrong, George Washington, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, or Muhammad Ali, fuel future competitors to meet and exceed their successes.

The disciples wanted Jesus to tell them, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (Matt. 18:1).  On a journey to Capernaum, they argued among themselves about who was the greatest (Mk. 9:34).  Here were twelve men who were selected by Christ to have a part in the greatest work on earth.  That was honor and purpose enough, but they wanted more.  If that was good, being the best of the best was better.  Such thinking was way off base, which Jesus repeatedly demonstrated through His humility, sacrifice, and service for the good of others.

Today, we wrestle with the same affliction.  Whether in our daily lives or even within our function in the church, we can get caught up in being recognized as the best.  This is a destructive exercise and misses the point.  If we are Christians, we are among God’s chosen on this earth.  What a privilege!  We have the highest, most important business to do.  Let us do our best and work our hardest, but let us never get caught in the trap of showing others that we are the best.  The very attempts disqualify us.

 

THE GLORY-HOG

THE GLORY-HOG

Neal Pollard

There are people who die some very gruesome deaths in Scripture–Eglon, Jezebel, the Levite’s concubine in Judges 19, Judas, and others, too.  But maybe none is more disturbing than the death of Herod the Great.  A wicked, godless ruler, Herod  Agrippa I had just overseen the execution of the apostle James and intended to do the same to Peter.  About this time, Tyre and Sidon sought to appease and flatter him, subjugated people in need of food from Galilee but who had somehow offended this Judean king.

What happens next is recorded in Acts 12:21-23, but is also found in The Works of Josephus.

Josephus writes that at a festival in honor of Caesar, Herod appeared before the people in “a garment made wholly of silver, and of a contexture truly wonderful” (344). The sunlight hit the garment making it shine “after a surprising manner” and caused the crowd to spontaneously shout that he was a god.  The people cried, “Be thou merciful to us; for although we have hitherto reverenced thee only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal nature” (345).

Josephus says that after he had not rejected their praise, “A severe pain also arose in his belly, and began in a most violent manner” (346). His pain then became violent and severe, and he lingered five days before he died at the age of 45 in A.D. 44 (347).  The inspired Luke tells us the cause of death–“He was eaten with worms” (Acts 12:23).  Why?  Because he did not give God the glory!

When I understand God’s reaction to those who take for themselves glory that only belongs to God, it should humble me to the core!  If it is a sermon, a program, an idea, an act of kindness or benevolence, a rendered service, an article, a Bible class, a Bible study, an evangelistic success, or any spiritual triumph, I should go the second-mile to deflect and divert that praise! We who preach, teach, and otherwise serve the Lord in any way on any occasion must have a healthy sense of who we are.  Paul says that we have the glorious gospel treasure “in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves” (2 Cor. 4:7).

May we be deeply impressed with that, especially when faced with the flattery and praise of men.  The sports analogy, “Don’t believe your own press clippings,” holds true.  Paul was quick to deflect such praise, saying, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth” (1 Cor. 3:5-6).

The next time we are tempted to be a “Glory Hog,” may these biblical truths rush to the forefront of our minds.  After all, thanks to Herod’s demise, we know how God feels about it.  To God truly be the glory!