Three Reasons To Work For Each Other

Three Reasons To Work For Each Other

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

In I Thessalonians 1.2-3, we’re motivated to work for each other for three reasons. First is our faith, which is a confidence that Jesus is coming back for us. It’s enough to make us go out of our way for each other. Our love for God is another motivator. We love God because he promised us a life with Jesus forever. Because he showed this kind of love, we show the same love to each other. Our hope is the last motivator listed in this section. A better word for this is anticipation. According to research led by Dr Andrew Huberman (neurobiologist and behavioral scientist at Stanford School of Medicine), anticipation is one of the strongest human emotions. This makes perfect sense, as our anticipation of Jesus’s return is why we live the Christian life. This is almost a word-for-word parallel to I Corinthians 13. 

I Thessalonians 1.4-6 reminds us that God loves us, so he chose us to be rescued. A few thousand years ago, God chose Israel to be his special people. When they were faithful to him, they enjoyed physical blessings and a relationship with him. God chose us to live with him forever. We’re his special people. Paul also points out that we can trust God to deliver on his promise. This will show up again later in the letter. God promised that we’ll live with him forever when his son comes back for us. Faith means confidence or trust. When we trust God to deliver on his promise, we’re demonstrating faith. 

This section also teaches that we can find happiness while we’re suffering. The anticipation we have of Jesus’s return is the only reason this statement is true. If this life is all there is, we’re the most miserable group of people in the world. What makes death, suffering, and anxiety worth the pain? How can we have any semblance of sanity when all the bad stuff happens? We keep going because he promised he’d come back for us, and because this life is short any way! 

Gary Pollard
Rays On Gloomy Days

Rays On Gloomy Days

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

For centuries, the locals of Meghalaya, India, have manipulated the roots of rubber trees to grow their natural bridges. Stretching over ditches and streams these natural structures will far outlast the man-made metal or wooden bridges that rot and decay in just a few years. The rubber-roots are self-strengthening and become more substantial over time by increasing in thickness. 

Meghalaya also happens to be the rainiest place on earth, receiving 467 inches of rainfall a year. Just to put that in perspective, New York will typically get around 60 inches a year. The men and women who work outdoors wear a sort of full body-umbrella made of bamboo and banana leaves.

One visiting reporter stopped a butcher who was carrying a basket of freshly-cut meat up a steep flight of stairs. He was asked if it was hard to live in a place with so much rain. The 26 year old man replied, “we can’t think about that. Here there’s always rain but we have to work, so it’s no good wondering about it.”

There are many people who tend to take this attitude after experiencing a rude awakening in life. When the days of innocence have passed us by we think tragedy, hardship, trials, and tribulations are just a part of the deal. 

It’s going to rain. It does no good to think about it— we trudge along. 

We’ve got overcast days, cold days, and rainy days— but it doesn’t mean we have to live without any light. 

This post is a simple one. Here’s a few passages to help brighten up the darker days. 

These verses don’t take the hurt out of life but they can put the hope back in our lives when we begin to lose drive. 

Isa. 60.19 

No longer will you need the sun to shine by day, nor the moon to give its light by night, for the Lord your God will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.

John 1.4-5 

The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

Ps. 40.1-3

I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.

I John 1.5 

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

I would argue that though it’s impossible for every day to be a sunny one, the Christian will always have access to the Light because of His son. 

Dale Pollard
Spiritual Blessings

Spiritual Blessings

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Ephesians 1.3 says, “In Christ, God has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” What does that mean? We hear “spiritual blessings” and might gloss over it as another Christianese phrase. Here’s a short list of what those spiritual blessings are.  

  • 1.4 — God chose us before Christ made the world. 
  • 1.4 — He chose us out of love to be his special people. 
  • 1.5 — He chose us to be his own children through Jesus Christ. 
  • 1.6 — God gives grace liberally.
  • 1.7 — We are free because of Jesus’s sacrifice. 
  • 1.7 — We have forgiveness because of God’s grace. 
  • 1.8-9 — God told us how we can get that grace. He didn’t set up a system that we would have to look super hard for, he made sure to preserve the information needed to find him.  
  • 1.10 — He is bringing the heavens and the earth together through Jesus. 
  • 1.12-13 — He made grace available to every country on earth, not just one group. 
  • 1.13-14 — He gave us his spirit as a downpayment on our reward. 

While we won’t fully appreciate these spiritual blessings until later (Paul says these riches are “too great to fully understand” in 3.8), we’re still extremely grateful that God has done so much to give us hope for eternal life. 

Let The World Be The World And The Church Be Different

Let The World Be The World And The Church Be Different

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Many of us were startled by an automatic alert sent to our phones last Saturday morning, alerting us of potential violence and danger in our usually serene city. The reason was a planned protest and counterprotest, a racially-charged event centering on a horrible incident that happened almost seventy years ago in another state. Predictably, it stirred up some division and exposed extreme and racially-prejudiced views from some.

The world prefers to keep people divided on the basis of race, gender, political affiliation, and the like, and uses such tools as identity politics (Brittanica defines this as “political or social activity by or on behalf of a racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other group, usually undertaken with the goal of rectifying injustices suffered by group members because of differences or conflicts between their particular identity or misconceptions of their particular identity and the dominant identity or identities of a larger society”) and tribal alliances. Subject to human biases, emotions, and subjectivism, easy to misjudge and assume others’ motives and intentions, it becomes a massive roadblock to oneness and unity.

But we would expect no less from the world. Who is the prince and ruler of this world? He is a murderer (John 8:44), a devourer (1 Pet. 5:8), a sinner (1 Jn. 3:8), and a deceiver (2 Co. 11:3,14). Chaos, disorder, and division serve his purposes quite effectively.

In the midst of such mayhem, the Lord has the church in this world to be a beacon and light (Mat. 5:13-16). What an opportunity we have in the midst of the world’s divisiveness to show a people united on the foundation of truth, regardless of our race, background, education level, economic strata, or any other way the world wants to divide us. We won’t compromise the eternal truth of God’s Word, but we will stand together on that even however difficult or unpopular. We will live by 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” We will honor His objective and follow His blueprint to achieve it.

When an onlooking world gets a glimpse of us in action, red, yellow, black, and white, working in love, harmony, and acceptance of one another, they will find an alternative to the world’s hate. When they see the poor esteemed and accepted as much as the well-to-do (Js. 2:1-8), they will see a bright alternative to a cold, status-conscious world. If the church will be the church, we can help the world–one searching person at a time. But the world will always be the world. We should not expect them to show us the way to be one. Their ruler wants chaos. Ours wants peace.

Alive In Christ

Alive In Christ

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

 

Carl Pollard

Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

In 1999, Australian Bill Morgan was a truck driver who got in a pretty bad accident that left him in coma. After 12 days and despite doctors giving him zero chance of surviving, he miraculously woke up and was, shockingly, completely fine! Feeling lucky for surviving, he went on and bought a scratch lottery ticket and won 18,000 dollars and a new car.

Normally winning a car wouldn’t have made it to the news but, because of Morgan’s accident story, Channel 9 decided to do a feature on the man who was “clinically dead and came back to win the lottery.” While filming, they asked him to buy a lottery ticket so they could re-enact the winning scratch. He happily obliged and started scratching the ticket on camera. But suddenly he stopped. He looked at the camera, and said “I just won $250,000.” 

Bill is a man that we would say has some pretty good luck. He was supposed to be dead, but instead he woke up, won a car, and $250,000 dollars. There was a point in our lives where we were spiritually dead, and Christ brought us back to life. But Christ doesn’t stop there. He saves us and continues to bless the faithful. Each and every person that has come in contact with the blood of Christ is no longer dead, plus His blood continually cleanses us of sin if we walk in the light (1 John 1:9). 

As lucky as Bill Morgan was, I’d like to suggest that those who are added to the body of Christ are blessed far beyond physical possessions. Our faith in Christ leads to eternal life! 

The Struggles Of The Righteous

The Struggles Of The Righteous

(Pinch Hitting For Brent, Who Is Sick)

(This is from today’s Lehman Learner)

Neal Pollard

Perhaps Jeremiah seemed to be mean, harsh, even unloving, to his brethren. His message is certainly what we could categorize as negative, but we remind ourselves that its source was God. What may get lost in Jeremiah’s challenging message is how it affected him to share it. Chapter nine is full of the struggles he endured in being God’s spokesman with a message of divine judgment.

Jeremiah endured mourning (1). While Judah would be hypercritical and threatening toward Jeremiah for his message, they had him all wrong. He did not relish his unpleasant message. He would have preferred to have kept his mouth closed (20:9). They had no idea of how his mission was wearing on him. He writes, “Oh that my head were waters And my eyes a fountain of tears, That I might weep day and night For the slain of the daughter of my people!” He knew that they were hurting themselves by their lifestyle, and he wanted them to escape judgment. It can be heartbreaking work to share God’s word on any number of unpleasant, unpopular subjects. No rational preacher, elder, or teacher is excited to share such a message, but it must be done (2 Tim. 4:2).  Jeremiah is rightly called the “weeping prophet” (8:18; 13:17; Lam. 2:18). Revealing this was an emotional struggle.

Jeremiah endured isolation  (2). The pressures of sharing a message nobody wanted to hear created inevitable isolation. He felt alone and like nobody understood or cared. He longs to escape such disappointing, unrighteous behavior. He wanted to run like Jonah. He felt alone like Elijah. It can go with the business of declaring God’s message. There are times when you may feel like you are standing all alone, but you never will if you are sharing God’s word God’s way. He will never leave you (Mat. 28:20; Heb. 13:6). 

Jeremiah endured disillusionment (3-6). He expected more and better from his brethren. They knew better, but they were guilty of treachery and adultery (2), lies and deceit (3,5-6), ignorance (3), violence (4), slander (5), and general iniquity (5). Have you ever overheard someone you looked up to use foul language or stumbled upon someone doing something sinful? It’s like a punch in the gut. But imagine a congregation full of people doing what God through Jeremiah reports. It had to have been discouraging and caused feelings of hopelessness. 

Jeremiah endured a sinking realization (7-11). What was the cost of this? Sin is not without consequences (Gal. 6:7-8; Hos. 8:7; Prov. 6:26). At the heart of God’s message was this rhetorical question: “Shall I not punish them for these things?” (9). Jeremiah knew what was coming. There would be weeping, wailing, and dirges (funeral songs)(10).  Judah would be ruined and desolate (11). Jeremiah knew this ahead of time. Whatever normalcy he witnessed each morning and evening, he knew that would ultimately change. The fact of judgment looms over the horizon of time. It will be a day of rejoicing for the righteous and prepared, but not for the rest of humanity. The people of Judah were not ready for this judgment, and Jeremiah knew that. 

Jeremiah endured being overwhelmed (12-16). The message gets specific about the nature of what was coming. It was going to be more devastating than any of them had experienced. Because of their stubborn rebellion, they would be scattered and annihilated. Hope belongs to the penitent, but there’s just no good news for those who are determined to oppose God’s way.  

Jeremiah endured unpleasant duty (17-22). God tells Jeremiah to call for mourning, wailing, and tears (17-19). He is help them focus on their shame (19).  The heart of the message was death (20-22). Don’t you think Jeremiah would have loved to have spoken of grace, mercy, lovingkindness, and blessings? But the circumstances did not call for that. Jeremiah had to be faithful to God’s message. Like Micaiah, every faithful spokesman for God should say, “As the Lord lives, what the Lord says to me, that I shall speak” (1 Ki. 22:14). 

There is a ray of hope starting in 9:23. Amid the folly of idolatry, there will be a reminder of the wonderful, perfect character of God in chapter ten. But even here, there is encouragement for God’s faithful servant. It was a message for the worldly wise, for the mighty man, and for the wealthy (23) not to trust in those things, but to trust in Him. Everyone should boast of knowing and understanding God, that He is “the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things” (24). Punishment was for the spiritually uncircumcised (25-26). It was not for the faithful, like His man Jeremiah. Whatever we have to struggle through for the Savior, may we know that God will be with us through thick and thin. He has not left us alone. He will always be with us, help us, and strengthen us! Declaring His word is right, and He will not let us lose for being unswervingly loyal to it and Him! 

1 Peter–Part VII

1 Peter–Part VII

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter – Part VII

While we’re on this topic, wives must listen to their own husbands. If your husband doesn’t believe, maybe you’ll win him over with just your good example! You wouldn’t even have to say anything. Pure and respectful behavior speaks volumes. Don’t obsess over your physical appearance or fashion. Show off who you are inside! A gentle, easy-going demeanor is timeless; it’s also extremely valuable to God. Remember the women lived a long time ago? They were considered special because God was their hope, just like he’s your hope. They also expressed their beauty by deferring to their husbands. Sarah did that for Abraham – she considered him to be her leader. You are just like her when you do the right thing without being afraid of anything. 

Husbands, you’re not off the hook. You share a living space with your wife, so you have to be a student of her needs and wants. Don’t treat her like one of the guys. Remember the differences between men and women. Don’t be rough with her. Make sure you show her how valuable she is! She has just as much a claim to God’s promise as you do. If you aren’t good to her, God will block your prayers. 

Finally, you all need to work together. Show sympathy to each other. Be kind to each other. Don’t think too highly of yourselves. Don’t insult people who insult you. Don’t get even with people who hurt you. Do something good for them instead! That’s actually why God called us, and he wants to do good for us, too. You’ve read, “Anyone who wants to live a good life should watch their mouth. They should avoid evil and do good things. They should look for peace and chase it. God watches out for good people and listens to their prayers, but he’s against people who practice evil.” 

Who’s going to hurt you if you’re obsessed with being good to people? Even if someone hurts you because of your faith, you’re ok! Don’t be afraid of their threats, don’t let it shake you up. Put Jesus in the center of your heart at all times. Have a logical answer ready whenever you’re interrogated for your faith. Tell them about your hope, but make sure you’re gentle and respectful. Make sure your moral lives are good so they can’t legitimately attack your character. If you’re doing the right thing, they’ll answer for how they treat you. It’s better to be attacked for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing. 

By 3rd century monk – Link
1 Peter 1– Hope’s Value

1 Peter 1– Hope’s Value

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter I – Hope’s Value

The prophets who told us about this rescue were very curious about it. They investigated and obsessed over the identity and timing of the rescuer Christ’s Spirit was telling them about. He told the prophets that he would suffer at first, but would gain everything after. He told the prophets that their writings were for people in the future, not for them. You are those people in the future! Through God’s influence, people told you about our hope for rescue. By the way, even angels are deeply interested in the hope you have right now! 

Since you have this hope for rescue, don’t ever let it go. Everything you do must be influenced by this hope. Make sure you’re mentally preparing yourself for spiritual combat. Make sure you have self-control going into this. We’ll be rescued when we see Jesus, so hang on tight to hope. 

Don’t go back to your old lives. You had those old, unhealthy desires before you knew any better. Instead, you must live like God wants you to. Jesus did! God’s word said, “You have to be morally pure, just like I am.” You know that God will judge everyone without bias. Live like you know this, and let that give you a healthy dose of fear. He didn’t use an unstable asset like money to secure your rescue. He used the most valuable thing in existence: his own flawless blood. 

Jesus’ plan was in motion before we were even created! He recently made his appearance just for us. Because of him, we believe in God, who brought Jesus back to life and gave him recognition and power. We believe in him. We have hope because of God. 

Fragment containing 1 Peter 1:23–2:5 on Papyrus 125 (3rd/4th century).
A Simple Study Of 1 Peter (Part One)

A Simple Study Of 1 Peter (Part One)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter I – Intro to Hope

I am Peter, one of the special messengers that Jesus chose to follow him. This is for the chosen ones who had to leave their homes; they are spread out over Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 

You were chosen by our father, God, because that was his plan. It was his Spirit that made you special people who live differently from everyone else. He chose us [Christians] to be the ones who obey him. He chose us to enjoy grace through Jesus’s blood, the one who came here to rescue us. May you have plenty of grace and peace. 

God, the father of our master Jesus (the one who saved us), deserves our love and praise! He has so much good will for us that he gave us new life and a hope that can never die. We have that hope because Jesus came back to life. 

This hope is for something we’ll get when we die: a brand new, untouched, permanently perfect place to live forever. It’s reserved for you right now, protected in heaven. God’s power is protecting you right now because of your faith. He’ll make sure you get the results of your hope when it’s revealed at the end of time. 

Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Calling On And Looking To Jesus

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For practitioners of Japan’s True Pure Land Buddhism, one desires to enter the pure land upon death. In so doing, he could bypass our corrupt world and enter the western paradise where he could quickly achieve nirvana. Conversely, True Pure Land Buddhism has a hellish alternative in which souls are tortured by oni (i.e., demons) until they are purged of their sins and can enter the Pure Land. No one desires torture. So, the Japanese would recite the nembutsu: “I call on the Amida Buddha.” In medieval Japan, practitioners of True Pure Land Buddhism would lay on their deathbeds holding on to a string as an added measure. That string led to a painting of Amida and his cohorts. As they looked longingly towards the picture, they hoped that their escaped soul would travel the line and enter the western paradise. 

It may be that upon reading the previous paragraph, you thought of the apostle Paul in ancient Athens. He told the men of Athens that he perceived them as superstitious, literally δεισιδαιμονεστέρους—“very fearful of gods” (Acts 17.22). As Japan is often called the home of eight million gods, with the Buddhas incorporated into the mix, it is easy to label the Japanese as superstitious. Yet, I note something different when I hear about this True Pure Land Buddhism. It would almost seem that True Pure Land Buddhism rubbed elbows with Christianity somewhere. It is conceivable since Pure Land Buddhism arose in India during the second century A.D. before making its way to east Asia. However, note two intriguing features of True Pure Land Buddhism reminding one of Christianity. 1) Calling on Amida’s name and 2) Looking to Amida for hope. 

Joel prophesied that those calling up the name of the Lord would be saved (Joel 2.32). Peter and Paul quote this verse from Joel’s prophecy regarding salvation within the New Covenant (Acts 2.21; Romans 10.13). So, there is most assuredly power in the name of Jesus Christ. Peter says there is “no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated). But calling on Jesus’ name is not like reciting a nembutsu. Paul shows us that we call upon the name of Jesus when our faith moves us to action. After seeing Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul has been fasting and praying for several days. The prophet Ananias finds Paul in his misery and says, “ Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22.16 NASB1995). See then how Paul called on Jesus’ name. Paul submitted himself to baptism for the washing away of his sins. In so doing, Paul called on the name of Jesus. 

Do we not also look to Jesus to give hope? Well, we do not stare at an artist’s rendering of the Christ upon our deathbed. But we do look to Him in life as our hope. After citing many examples of those from whom we could find a worthy model of faithfulness, the Hebrews’ writer adds: “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12.2-3). The KJV says we look to Jesus. Either way, our eyes are drawn to and become fixated upon Him. This hope we have in Jesus is an anchor for the soul (Hebrews 6.19). 

It remains a challenge to preach the Gospel in those parts of the world where Buddhism has taken root. I’ve heard missionaries remark of the antagonism against Christianity within the Buddhist world. Yet, it seems strange that within at least one branch of Buddhism, there is a central figure who is something of a Messiah. Considering that so much of Buddhism asks you to find salvation from within yourself, there are at least some within that belief system who recognize the nature of the human condition is such that we must rely on the grace of someone greater. Therefore, even in hostile environments, may we endeavor to preach that the One willing and able to save is the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us tell the world to call upon and look to Jesus.

courtesy via Flickr