“Dear church…”

“Dear church…”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

When I was in elementary school, we had a teacher who taught us how to properly write a letter. Miss Crews, my fourth grade teacher, told us it included the heading, greeting, body, complimentary closing, and signature. Isn’t it interesting what we retain (or fail to retain) from childhood?

Applying that basic analysis to the New Testament epistles, we are greatly helped. In addition to reading who the epistle of 1 Corinthians is from (1:1) and who it is to (1:2), we have a heading (helped by the information in verse 2), greeting (1:3), body (1:4-16:18), complimentary closing (16:19-20, 22-24), and signature (16:21). It is also in this first section of the letter (1:1-17) that we find the purpose of the letter. Notice some key aspects of these first several verses.

PAUL REMINDS THEM OF WHO THEY ARE (1:2-3)

In the daily grind, I can be apt to forget exactly who I am and who God has called me to be. It seems this had happened to the entire congregation at Corinth. Paul starts out this letter by reminding them they belong to God, set apart, and recipients of grace and peace. 

PAUL TELLS THEM WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR THEM (1:4-9)

Except for Galatians, Paul begins with a prayer, blessing, or thanksgiving. Here, Paul reminds them of how blessed they are–with grace (1:4), riches (1:5), confirmation (1:6), various blessings (1:7), hope (1:8), and fellowship with the Father and Son (1:9). I don’t know about you, but I often need to be reminded of how mindful the Lord has been of me. I need to reflect on my blessings so I won’t obsess over my problems. Paul is going to be addressing a serious problem in their lives, but he starts by centering their focus on their spiritual treasures. 

PAUL URGES SOMETHING OF THEM (1:10-17)

One of the ways a New Testament writer indicated the purpose of his writing is through petition verbs. While Paul actually uses a petition verb three times in this letter (1:10, 4:16, and 16:15), there’s no doubt that his first one sets the tone for the rest of the letter. They have a big problem at Corinth: division. We can see this in greater detail as we walk through the letter, but their division was seen in their allegiance to men instead of Christ, in their worship services, in their exercise of spiritual gifts, in their exercise of their Christian liberties, in their view on various sins, and more. So, Paul brings them into focus here.

  • He urges them to be complete, by being of the same mind and judgment (1:10).
  • He urges them to see the true nature of Christ (1:11-13).
  • He urges them to focus on the gospel and the cross (1:14-17). 

Keep in mind, as you read through this entire letter, that God had something He wanted Corinth and all subsequent churches and Christians facing the same general struggle to understand. It requires us to keep sight of our identity, blessings, and purpose. Otherwise, we open the door to division which can be the gateway to “disorder and every evil thing” (Jas. 3:16). 

photo credit: Flickr
Marks Of True Friendship

Marks Of True Friendship

Henry Adams wrote, “One friend in a lifetime is much, two are many, and three are hardly possible.” While I do not share his pessimism or cynicism, I do believe that true, close friends are certainly not prevalent. There are too many factors at play. Friendships take time, trust, and transparency. Some things can be barriers to developing close companionship from contrasting values to clashing viewpoints.

The Bible gives insight into factors essential to building true, lasting friendships. Since God made man, He knows what makes us tick and operate at our optimism levels. Here are four quick principles:

A Friend Loves At All Times (Proverbs 17:17).

Solomon does not suggest blind loyalty or blanket endorsement. Scripture does not encourage fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11), but it also points out that we all struggle with sin problems (Rom. 3:23). We also are prone to weak moments and we go through trials and reverses of fortune. It is a blessing to know we have people we can count on to be there even when we’re not at our best or enjoying our mountaintop moments (Heb. 12:12-13; Rom. 12:15).

For The Despairing Man, There Should Be Kindness From His Friend (Job 6:14).

For every one we exchange superficial greetings with, even as we are carrying our hidden cares, we need true friends to turn to for help when we face deep needs in our hours of trial. Rare is the friend who knows, sympathizes, and is ready to help with a kind word or deed. You can imagine how Job’s friends added to his despair by failing to offer that when he needed it most. So many things bring despair–job loss, family crisis, financial reverse, health issues, and other life changes. It is then that astute acts of kindness make a lasting impact and forge true friendships.

If They Fall, One Will Lift Up His Fellow (Ecc. 4:10).

Solomon does not specify whether the falling is physical, emotional, or spiritual. No matter what makes us fall, it is the trustworthy response of a friend that he focuses on. How tragic not to have someone in our lives with a ready hand when we are sinking! What if we are falling away from God (Jas. 5:19-20)? What if we are losing faith or overwhelmed (Mat. 14:30)? “The Lord sustains all who fall” (Ps. 145:14), and what a blessing when He does so through a faithful friend!

Faithful Are The Wounds Of A Friend (Prov. 27:6).

We need people in our lives who are more than “yes” men and women. True friends care enough to correct if we are going off course. We need those who don’t just rubber stamp our speech, validate our every action, or automatically take our side. None of that helps us refine our character or makes us fit for the Master’s use. It’s not easy to tell someone we like and care about that they’ve fallen short in some way, but having a friend that deep and genuine is a true blessing in life.

These passages challenge me to ask, “What kind of friend am I to others?” Am I deeper than a fellow sport’s fan, a person with common interests, or even a co-member of the church? Can I be counted on to be there in the valleys as well as the mountaintop days? Can I be trusted with kindness on despairing days? Am I a lifter? Do I have the courage even to say the difficult things in difficult moments? I want to be that kind of friend to my friends!

Some of our dearest friends, whom we were blessed to see this past weekend.
A Passion For Heaven

A Passion For Heaven

Sunday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Cayden is a student at Western Kentucky University and is from Scottsville.

Cayden Ross

If you’ve ever taken any kind of introductory biology or ecology class, you’ve probably heard of a few animals that display what we call migratory patterns. It’s pretty self-explanatory, but what these animals do is they live at one location for one part of the year and somewhere else for the other part of the year. For example, there are certain species of whales that inhabit the waters around Alaska. In the Alaskan summers, there’s an abundance of food for these whales to feed on, but when the harsh winter temperatures set in, these whales’ food source becomes scarce, and these whales will migrate south to waters around Hawaii, Central Mexico, and even Asia. But when the summer returns in Alaska, these whales have this instinct to return home. Another example that might hit closer to home is that we saw tons of migratory birds flying right over Kentucky, heading south for the winter within the last few weeks and months. When spring comes back around, we will see these same birds heading back north for the summer. I find it interesting that these animals have this instinct to return home, but the neat thing is that God gives us this instinct as well. Now obviously, I’m not talking about some sort of strange migratory pattern or anything of that nature. I’m speaking about a homesickness, a passion that we Christians should have for heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”

This verse tells us that we are all eternal and that God created us with eternity in mind. We know that when we pass on from this life, we are going to either one of two places, but we as Christians have this desire to live in heaven with our father forever. This world just simply isn’t our home.

Let me give you this illustration…  imagine you take a fish out of water and put it on land. That fish will never be happy! It doesn’t matter if you give that fish a wad of 100-dollar bills or build it a giant home and give it a fancy car. It still won’t be happy because it doesn’t belong on land.

As Christians, our life here on Earth is similar. It doesn’t matter how much money we have, or how big our house is, or what kind of car we drive because we will never be as happy here as we will be in heaven. 

Heaven is a place that we cannot even imagine… 

1st Corinthians 2:9 says, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,

     nor the heart of man imagined,

 what God has prepared for those who love him.”

We don’t have all the answers to what our home in heaven will look like or what it will feel like, but the most important thing is that when we get there, we will be in the presence of God for eternity, and He wants each and every single one of us there.

Soul Food

Soul Food

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

man with classes and beard smiling and wearing a ball cap.
Gary Pollard

When I get discouraged, I read a few specific verses. They will hopefully encourage you, too! 

Philippians 3.20f: But we are citizens of heaven, where the lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. 

Romans 8.1-4: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death…God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. In that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 

I Corinthians 15.51-53: But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 

II Corinthians 4.16ff: That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 

II Corinthians 5.1-4: For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.

Plate full of food with turkey, dressing, vegetables, mashed potatoes
The Tie That Binds

The Tie That Binds

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

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

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

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

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

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

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

Each one had spiritual battles from greed to crippling doubt.  

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

What’s changed? Not much. 

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

Members of the church in the Bowling Green area at an FCA fundraiser.
Fears Are Funny

Fears Are Funny

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

image-e1601983688162

Dale Pollard

Do you remember what any of your childhood fears were? Maybe you never really grew out of those fears.  I can remember a number of phobias I had as a child but one of them was not arachnophobia. In fact, me and my younger brother would collect spiders from the backyard and put them all in a container in our bedroom. At night we would put a flashlight behind a clear cage and watch all the spiders make their webs— occasionally fight each other. I don’t believe mom ever discovered this little secret. For some reason as I grew older (more mature) I developed a fear of spiders, despite having played with them often as a young kid.

Fears can be funny like that. They can come from bad experiences or just somewhere in the back of our minds. There’s a lot of fear in the world today!

One of my favorite psalms in the Bible is Psalm 46. We read about what seems to be those worst case scenarios, but God still reigns over all. What if the earth gives way? What if the mountains are thrown into the sea? What if the wrong man becomes our new president? What if this virus never goes away? Even so, we have no reason to fear. God is bigger than our fears. We serve a Being with that much power and it should fill us with courage. What are you afraid of? 

Homesick For Heaven

Homesick For Heaven

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard
The definition of homesick is “experiencing a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.” It’s the feeling a college student experiences in their first few months away from home. It’s a desire to get back to the people you love and to be back in a familiar place. Whether it’s a business trip that takes you away for extended periods of time or even a vacation, that feeling of opening the door and being back home is amazing.
 
We sometimes sing a song in worship that speaks of this longing. “I’m kind of homesick for a country. To which I’ve never been before..” How can we long for a place we’ve never been? This is a homesickness like no other. It’s unique in that the desire to be there is based on the descriptions of heaven we read in scripture.
 
We are to long for heaven more than our earthly home. How can we do this? “No sad goodbyes, will there be spoken. For time won’t matter anymore.” Aren’t you homesick for a place without goodbyes? A time when we will never have to stand over the coffin of a loved one again. A place where cancer and sickness can’t take our loved ones away. Heaven is a home where we will never have to experience the pain and grief that comes from death.
 
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians‬ ‭15:53-55‬, “For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”” For too long death has won. For too long people have felt the pain that death brings. But one day, death will be swallowed up. No longer will death be able to torment us. Our eternal home will be a place free of death. There won’t be any funeral homes, graveyards, or hospitals because heaven is a place where no one will ever die again. I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been because in that wonderful home we will never say goodbye.
 
I’m homesick for a place I’ve never been.
Are you?
 
 
“Let Him Die”

“Let Him Die”

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

It sounds like an ad pitch when you say 9 out of 10 doctors agree about something. Chewing gum manufacturers, for example, would talk about how many dentists concurred about the safe use and benefits of certain brands of gum. This past summer, at the height of a health crisis, my doctors, who swore an oath to “do no harm,” told my parents to let me die. Yes, 9 out of 10 doctors thought I’d be better off dead. They said that even if I could recover, I would have no quality of life. My parents would have none of it. Through threats of litigation, my dad “persuaded” them to take those measures that led to my return from the brink. Nine out of ten doctors were wrong. I survived. They were correct about the impact on my singing voice thus far, but none of the other dire predictions proved accurate. 

The 13th Surgeon General of the United States, C. Everett Koop proved himself an ally to the pro-life movement in the United States cautioning how abortion led to a culture of death where even euthanasia becomes acceptable. Koop saved lives as a pediatrician in his civilian life. So, he asked why he should support the destruction of the thing he had long sought to preserve. That is a good question. Doctors affirm their intentions by stating the revised Hippocratic Oath. And, as they do so, they promise not to play God. But unfortunately, what Koop feared seems to be on the horizon. In addition to doctors willing to be instruments of death, you find collaborators in society at large in pop culture and government. Perhaps you have heard of certain billionaire humanists extolling the virtues of culling the global population. The verbiage of the “elite” makes it sound as if the vile demon of eugenics, as exercised in the early twentieth century by Margaret Sanger and Adolph Hitler, has returned.  

God is pro-life, as He is the author of it. David tells us that God is watching us being knit together in our mother’s womb during gestation (cf. Psalm 139). Furthermore, God indicated that a few of His servants had pre-birth life purposes bestowed on them by God (Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1.5; Paul, Galatians 1.15; John the Immerser, Luke 1.15; Samson, Judges 13.5). Finally, as the Messianic psalm states, God takes us from the womb (Psalm 22.9-10). How do we lose sight of this?  

First, we acknowledge that not everyone believes in God. With the absence of God, there can be no morality. Murder needs no excuse. It becomes expediency.

Second, people become callous. Research has enlightened us concerning how prevalent depictions of violence and death have become. Children play video games in which they blow opponents to bits with bullets and rockets. Adults watch television shows with blood and guts. When a pandemic comes along, you get a surreal feeling. You recognize death but feel emotionally impacted only when the coronavirus takes a kinsman. If you are tired and deal daily with death, what is one more non-related person in the morgue?

Third, there is selfishness. The infirm, demented, or chromosomally-impaired become too burdensome on a child or parent. Some European countries allow for euthanasia in such cases. It happens in the United States, too but through neglect and the provision of substandard care. (I know, I just lost an aunt under those circumstances.)

Finally, there are fiduciary factors. A patient becomes too expensive to sustain. Insurance or administrators want the plug pulled. It is nothing personal. It is just money. 

Please understand that I don’t believe that all doctors would react the same under the same circumstances. Indeed, I’ve had doctors pray with me, advocate for me, and acknowledge that God has extended my life. So there are faithful, Christian doctors. But nine out of ten doctors in their fellowship at the teaching hospital in which I found myself thought I should die. It is a sad commentary of where we find ourselves in the United States today. So choose life and advocate for it. 

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1.27 NASB1995) 

Two that never gave up on Brent were our parents (here is mom with him in late June).
Keeping It Together

Keeping It Together

Wednesday’s Article: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Peter dropped a bombshell on the early church: “Everything’s about to end…” (I Pet. 4.7). For those early Christians, that meant death was close. Our natural reaction when facing imminent death is usually panic, followed by desperate attempts at self-preservation. History (even recent history) has shown us humanity’s trend when faced with potential calamity.

So, what does God expect us to do when we face the end? We’ll look at I Peter 4 for answers.

  • Be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of our prayers (7). God can’t work with us when we’re freaking out.
  • Love each other with dedication (8). Love hides mistakes, and we’re full of them. When everything falls apart, we have to lean on each other.
  • Take care of each other without complaining (9).
  • Use your abilities to help each other (10-11). This could be through finance, words, or serving each other.

More could be said about this! The bottom line is that we can’t react like everyone else. When everything falls apart, we should stand out in a good way. We should be lights in a dark room. Our response to crisis could very well attract people stuck in darkness. We could not possibly help our fellow man more than by giving them the same hope we have!

BLESSED BY THE BEST

BLESSED BY THE BEST

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

sunset and sweetie

Neal Pollard

Paul is writing about the second coming, trying to straighten out the misinformation of false teachers, whose message threatened to shake the faith of some newer Christians. He makes a transition after exposing their teaching and warning about the outcome for such men. There is a contrast in tone and message for these who embrace and follow the truth. As hopeless as the end will be for those who believe a lie and are condemned, there is great hope for the righteous believer. As we strive to be such today, we stand to benefit in the same way.

We have been chosen (2 Thes. 2:13). God intended from before time to bless those who believed in the truth. He loves those who go against the tide of popular opinion and embraces what He has to offer, and He sets us apart! We are special to Him. The word “chosen” here indicates “to choose or select for the purpose of showing special favor to or concern for” (Louw-Nida, 360).

We have been called (2 Thes. 2:14-15). This word means “choose for receipt of a special benefit or experience” (BDAG, 503). The benefit identified is “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The way we “obtain” it is by the gospel and “the traditions” given by apostolic teaching. This word tradition simply means teaching handed down, but it means something binding and originating from God. The point is that God reserves His benefits and blessings for those who believe and obey His gospel! Read Ephesians 1 or 1 Peter 1 for a small sample of these!

We have been given consolation (2 Thes. 2:16). This is the idea of emboldening someone to believe or do something. When there is opposition and false teaching, we need encouraged to follow what’s right. What gives us encouragement and hope? God’s grace! To know that God gives us what we don’t deserve, but the very thing we need, will keep us going in the hardest times. It should lift our spirits to know that the worst we face in this life cannot keep us from the best God has to offer. 

We have been given comfort (2 Thes. 2:17). While the word entailed the “setting aside of grief,” Paul speaks of God’s unchanging nature and character. So He’s more than able to set aside whatever grief we feel. Yet, it’s more than removing a negative feeling. He encourages and establishes us so that we can accomplish His will, “every good word and work.” A few sentences later, he elaborates that this involves being strengthened and protected from the evil one (3:3). Seeing the havoc he can wreak, that’s practical comfort every faithful Christian needs!

Do you feel deflated, discouraged, defeated, and dismayed? Here’s a passage you can return to repeatedly! It will remind you of what you mean to God and how He proves it! It’s the substance that can help you weather the worst Satan throws at you this week! Will you remember how much you mean to Him, then show Him how much He means to you?