The Nazca Lines And Writing On Tablets Of The Heart

The Nazca Lines And Writing On Tablets Of The Heart

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

In southern Peru, there is a massive area of geoglyphs carved into the ground and rock. They are named for the area, called the Nazca Lines. There are humongous carvings of people and animals, National Geographic reporting that “in total, there are over 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant designs, also called biomorphs. Some of the straight lines run up to 30 miles, while the biomorphs range from 50 to 1200 feet in length (as large as the Empire State Building)” (NAT GEO). There are so many theories about the meaning and purpose of these etchings, made by a people who could not have seen the entirety of figures that require aerial view to take in. It is suggested that these geoglyphs were formed between 500 BC and 500 AD by people from at least two distinct cultures. Overall, they have been well-preserved (aided by lowest annual rainfall rates in the world) and their authenticity is indisputable.

While this massive ancient project raises more questions than answers, it points to an effort that was done by a people whose work could not be appreciated in their own lifetime. The time, calculation, effort, and plotting required to draw these figures in the ground is awe-inspiring. We could argue that their work did not have the significance of medical breakthroughs, ingenious inventions, and literary brilliance, but they are still impressive.  They could not see the fruits of their own labor, yet they continued to diligently work.

When it comes to matters of faith, how hard it is to labor with such foresight. The decisions we make every day, the priorities we map out for ourselves and our families, even the seemingly insignificant choices definitely impact ourselves. But, we are also building for the future in ways that we may never see in our lifetime. They will eat the fruit of the trees we are planting today.

Asaph urged an investment in the faith of one’s descendants. He says, “For He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers that they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidence in God And not forget the works of God, But keep His commandments, and not be like their fathers, A stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation that did not prepare its heart And whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Ps. 78:5-8). 

When we write God’s love and His will on the hearts of our children, it increases the likelihood that generations yet unborn will trust, remember, and obey God (cf. 2 Cor. 3:2-3)! That’s profound! New Testament Christianity extends back several generations on my mother’s side. The same is true of Kathy’s father’s side of the family. We pray daily for our children’s faith and their children’s faith. Won’t it be wonderful to spend eternity with descendants, maybe many generations removed from us, who “saw” our faith and imitated it? That is a wonder that far exceeds any archaeological find! 

Live your faith! Not only will it save you, but may contribute to the salvation of many generations yet to come. Keep writing on tablets of human hearts. The future will see it and marvel!

Neal Pollard
The Lessons Of Peter And Paul At Antioch

The Lessons Of Peter And Paul At Antioch

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

As a free moral agent, Simon Peter had the same capacity for sin as the rest of us. And Peter sinned despite being an apostle. We recall Peter’s most famous blunder on the night of Jesus’ mock trial (Luke 22.60-62). Or perhaps we remember Peter sticking his foot in his mouth on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17.4-6). But there was another occasion on which Peter’s fallibility demonstrated itself. According to Galatians 2.11-14, Peter allowed his fear of the Judaisers rule his heart and stopped associating with Gentile Christians: 

“But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of some men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and separate himself, fearing those from the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, ‘If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?’ (NASB)” 

Paul labels Peter a hypocrite. Remember how Paul reminded Peter that he lived as a Gentile rather than a Jew, referring to his life in Christ, in whom we make no such distinctions (Galatians 3.28). Indeed, a hypocrite is someone whose true character contrasts with the image he presents to the world. And unfortunately, Peter was guilty of doing such at the moment. Peter didn’t want the Judaisers, a zealous sect of Christians who believed Gentiles should first convert to Judaism before becoming candidates for Christian conversion, to know he had no problem freely associating with Gentile Christians. He preferred instead to maintain the charade of one whose first allegiance was to Moses’ Law.  

When we allow fear to rule our hearts, we make poor decisions. Peter should have considered the role of fear in his past failures. Fear caused Peter to sink instead of walk on water as he had done for a few steps (Matthew 14.28-30). Peter took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the boisterous waves, exacerbating his fear rather than alleviating it. Fear drove Peter to deny the Lord three times before the rooster crow because he feared the consequences of admitting he was the Lord’s disciple rather than accepting the repercussions of that admission (Mark 14.31). But God does not want us to be concerned about what might happen. Instead, he desires that we put our trust in Him, cast our cares on Him, and make decisions that glorify Him. And once we develop perfect love, it casts out such fear (1 John 4.18).  

But did Paul have to rebuke Peter publicly? Yes. Peter had sinned publicly. There was no point in following the guidelines provided by our Lord to take such an erring brother aside privately (Matthew 18.15-16). Plus, Paul knew his judgment sound by having also received the revelation of Jesus Christ. Peter’s sin was spreading itself as cancer among the brethren of Antioch (cf. 1 Corinthians 5.6-7). Had Peter’s choice affected him alone, that would have been one thing. But Peter had a position of influence. He was an apostle. Therefore, he influenced other Jewish Christians to act hypocritically, including Paul’s future missionary journey companion, Barnabas.  

Did Peter resent Paul for so doing? I don’t imagine anyone enjoys having another rebuke him. Though referring to persecution, the Hebrews’ writer nonetheless says discipline can be painful. Despite this, a Christian understands that discipline trains him to become more fruitful (Hebrews 12.11). However, Peter must have known the words of Solomon that the one later favors a rebuker rather than the flatterer (Proverbs 28.23). Peter could, on reflection, appreciate what Paul had done for him. And that Peter bore no ill will for Paul is seen in the fact that Peter refers to Paul as a “beloved brother” in 2 Peter 3.15. 

Thus, Peter teaches us by example both positive lessons worthy of emulation and types of behavior we need to avoid, such as in Galatians 2. We should not allow our fear of what others think or our esteem for others to cause us to deviate from the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. And Paul teaches us that when someone sins publicly, and we know this because of God’s Word, we should nip that error in the bud since sin will act as leaven, permeating the body of Christ.     

“My Huckleberry Friend” 

“My Huckleberry Friend” 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Having a friend that we can confide in and rely on for sound advice is invaluable, but we should be picky about who we choose as friends. Solomon says, “The righteous person is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12.26 NASB). 

Thus, we will begin with those negative characteristics Solomon says one should avoid when befriending people. Do not befriend: 

  • A gossip (Proverbs 20.19). 
  • The short-tempered (Proverbs 22.24-25). 
  • Drunks and gluttons (Proverbs 23.20-21). 
  • The “unsteady” (Proverbs 24.21-22). [To fully understand this, you may need to check the Hebrew. For example, in one translation, a person “given to change” may join “rebellious officials” in another. This difference is because the Hebrew “shanah” implies repetition (“to repeat, do again”). So, Solomon speaks of those not willing to grow from their mistakes or have fickle loyalties. Hence, such people are unstable in their ways.] 
  • Liars (Proverbs 25.18). 
  • The untrustworthy (Proverbs 25.19). 
  • The inconsiderate (Proverbs 25.20). 
  • The violent (Proverbs 1.10-19). 

Those whom Solomon says to befriend comprise a shorter list. Befriend those: 

  • Who display wisdom (Proverbs 13.20). 
  • Who will point you in the right direction (Proverbs 13.14). 

In addition to telling us who to befriend and who to shun, Solomon gives us wisdom about how we can be better friends with others. This wisdom begins with telling us to avoid certain disruptive practices.  

  • Don’t repeat everything you hear (Proverbs 17.9). 
  • Avoid senseless arguments (Proverbs 14.14). 
  • Don’t overstay your welcome (Proverbs 25.17). 
  • Don’t intrude on others’ arguments (Proverbs 26.17). [Solomon likens this to yanking a dog’s ears.] 
  • Don’t call mistakes and misdeeds a failed attempt at humor (Proverbs 26.18-19). [“I was joking!”] 
  • Don’t gossip (Proverbs 26.20). [Look up Socrates’ three filters: Is it true? Is it good? Is it useful?.] 
  • Don’t be cranky (Proverbs 26.21). 
  • Don’t be inconsiderate (Proverbs 27.14). 

According to Solomon, then, these are the causes of discord among friends. It may be difficult to recover a friend’s trust if they have lost faith in us. Solomon warns, “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars” (Proverbs 18.19 NLT). Solomon, though, advises those of us who have harmed our relationships. If we need to repair a friendship, we must: 

  • Get our relationship right with God, and then others will change their perspective of us (Proverbs 16.7). 
  • Be slow to anger (Proverbs 15.18, cf. James 1.19). 
  • Not speculate (Proverbs 18.13). 
  • Not quarrel (Proverbs 20.3). 
  • Speak gently (Proverbs 15.1). 
  • Speak less (Proverbs 10.19). 
  • Be loving (Proverbs 10.12). 
  • Offer honest criticism instead of flattery (Proverbs 28.23). 

Yes, correctly applying God’s wisdom can ensure that we enjoy the blessings of good friends in this life. And there is a blessing in a friendship that Solomon reminds us of in Ecclesiastes 4.9-12: 

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” (Ecclesiastes 4.9-12 NASB1995)  

Let us seek and be good friends with one another. 

The Wearied Preacher

The Wearied Preacher

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” (Ecclesiastes 12.12 NASB1995) 

As Solomon reaches the end of his treatise as “The Preacher,” he expresses his feelings, using his life as an example. During his life, as today, people wrote on many topics. If there is a difference between our two eras, it must be that more people today have access to education and can read all of the books that people write. Otherwise, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9). Yet, with education comes self-reflection. And self-reflection often prompts men to take pen to page and write in poetry and prose. Even so, that self-reflection brings melancholy, as with men like Edgar Allen Poe.

And this is where we find Solomon. But even though cynical at this point, Solomon still sounds as if he could have found a home among the other literary figures of the Romantic era, like Alfred Lord Tennyson or Henry David Thoreau. When it is fashionable for men to be scholarly, one notes more men willing to put thoughts and feelings into words. Whatever the rationale, whether to be praised, make money or achieve catharsis, it spawns one of the hallmarks of culture: literature.

Generally speaking, literature and its study are positive. From those writers in the past, concepts have been communicated through time, influencing future generations. Before the Romantic era, the West went through the Age of Enlightenment. Academics and thinkers drew ideas from the classical thought of ancient Greece. Some thinkers in this epoch penned literature the American Founding Fathers read and sparked a revolution. Others, like Sir Isaac Newton, were inspired to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

But then there is another class of literature written by men with a deleterious effect on the reader. No, I am not just talking of the smut peddler, though that is terrible. Instead, I am referring to those like Karl Marx or Adolph Hitler, who took to pen to write dangerous, subversive ideas that upset the course of civilization. Although World War 2 effectively destroyed Hitler’s brand of fascism, Marxism still flourishes in the ivy-covered walls of U.S. colleges and universities. And we have not even mentioned those like Friedrich Nietzsche, who was desirous of taking away his reader’s hope in God.

Even so, the written word remains one of man’s greatest inventions. And it is apropos that the first book produced by a printing press was a copy of God’s Word. That book, the Bible, is itself a compilation of 66 books. And think of the diverse and storied men who wrote those books’ words through the Holy Spirit’s influence: shepherds, kings, tax collectors, tent makers, doctors, et al. So the final product is something we can even enjoy as literature, despite being written for our moral guidance.

In this Information Age, as some have dubbed it, we still have our writers. They may write as I do for a blog, a funny-sounding word that didn’t even exist a half-century ago. It is short for “weblog.” Or they may write for journals, newsletters, and books. But men still write. You may have never guessed that it is a tiresome task, especially when dealing with the denizens of the interwebs. These readers crave new content, not unlike the way the ancient Athenians daily gathered on Mars’ Hill to hear some new thing (Acts 17.21). And if you don’t keep your content fresh, you lose readers. So even if you do not monetize your blog, as this is a non-monetized blog, one still wants to have readers to make the endeavor worthwhile. It is not necessarily a numbers thing, but more eyes ensure that more seed-casting and watering can occur so that God brings an increase (1 Corinthians 3.5-7).

Hence, there is wisdom in distributing this chore to five men, each bringing their perspective to the task. As one who has repeatedly tried and failed at blogging because of physical infirmity and ADHD, one article a week is a fantastic achievement. However, I get tired at even the thought of multiplying that effort by five weekdays. But Solomon pointed out that writing is tiring. Yes, this is not a book, per se. But it is still wearisome. Some may mock how something like preaching, teaching, or writing devotional content could be tiring since it is not blue-collar work. The answer lies within physiology since even the brain of a resting person requires about 20% of the body’s energy.1

There are also emotional highs and lows. Sometimes you become sad like Solomon. When you realize, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10.31 NASB1995), you want to figure out how to convince the most stubborn person of their need to obey God. Sometimes you must surmount cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational differences to do this. So how do I tailor a message to convince this man or woman I desire to win for Christ?

At other times you encounter a gold nugget, something that had never caught your attention in your prior readings through the Scriptures. So, naturally, you want to drop everything and research it, plumbing its depths. But maybe your search leads nowhere. And you end up tossing it upon that humongous pile of things that are the secret things known only to God (cf. Deuteronomy 29.29). Then again, you might hit the Comstock Lode. In this case, not only do you learn something new, but it may even be something that corrects you from the error you ignorantly embraced and taught. At the end of the day, one realizes that he will never exhaust his capacity to learn something from God’s Word. And that should be something that humbles you.

No wonder Solomon ends his message by saying one should not try to tackle the wisdom that we see residing beyond God’s Word. If it can be wearisome to study the Bible, imagine trying to wrap your head around fields of study that are contingent on theories since no one can prove what they believe. For example, just recently, the James Webb Space Telescope showed no signs that the universe is expanding, something necessary if the big bang occurred. There is also no red shift in those galaxies farthest away, indicating no cosmic expansion. So now cosmologists and physicists will go back and have to come up with a new explanation for the universe’s origin. How frustrating, even panic-inducing.2

Solomon sums everything up after the “wearied Preacher’s” last admonition against too much study and “excessive devotion” to books of no eternal value. Our purpose is to fear God and keep His commandments because He will be judging us (12.13-14). If you know enough to save your soul from hell, you are indeed a wise man or woman.  

 

Works Cited 

1 Richardson, Michael W. “How Much Energy Does the Brain Use?” BrainFacts.org, Society for Neuroscience, 1 Feb. 2019, www.brainfacts.org/Brain-Anatomy-and-Function/Anatomy/2019/How-Much-Energy-Does-the-Brain-Use-020119.

2 PlanetMoron. “What If the Big Bang Never Happened? the James Webb Space Telescope Might Change Everything.” Not the Bee, Not the Bee, 22 Aug. 2022, notthebee.com/article/what-if-the-big-bang-never-happened

Dear Christian Teen,

Dear Christian Teen,

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Dear Christian Teen, 

Most of you have heard 1 Timothy 4:12, “let no one look down on your youthfulness,” at some point in your lives. But what about the second half of the verse? In I Timothy Paul has been instructing Timothy on how to deal with men like Alexander and Hymenaeus. These men had been blaspheming and teaching false doctrine. Paul clearly states that the goal of their instruction should be love from a pure heart, a good conscience and a sincere faith (1:5).

Skipping down to chapter four, Paul tells Timothy that no one should look down on him because of his age. Timothy is charged to teach the gospel and handle the men that have been teaching false doctrine. To do so, he can’t let others’ view of him cause him to stop doing his job. When Paul says “youthfulness,” the original text uses a word that could be ascribed to someone as old as 30. Paul’s main point is that in “speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” This is what Timothy should have been doing. Forget the age, forget what other men are saying, and LIVE as an example. Paul wanted Timothy to be a “tupos” or “type” that men can follow. Timothy could do nothing about his age, so his effectiveness was to be rooted in his example.

So, young Christians today, what can we do to be an example? There are five things we can do. First involves our speech. This is external. People can hear the way you talk in your everyday life. Make sure it is blameless and pure. Don’t give someone a reason to reject you because of how you speak in your private life. Second involves our conduct. Once again this is external. Having proper conduct is vital if people are to see you as something more than just a youth. Be a man/woman of God whether you’re being watched or not. Third involves love. This is more internal than external. This love is an agape love. Sacrifice for others at the expense of your own good. This also goes back to 1:5 “love from a pure heart.” Fourth involves faith. This is also internal. Work on your own faith. Build your own relationship with God. Last involves purity. Be pure in your relationships and in your life when no one else is around. Do these things as “an example (type) to those who believe.”

Paul continues on in verses 4:13ff to discuss other ways he can be an example: giving attention to the public reading of scripture, exhorting and teaching, and using his spiritual gift he had been given by the Holy Spirit. 

Paul wanted Timothy to be a living example. When these men were looking down on him for his age, Paul didn’t tell him to focus on his experience, but on the source. Focus on your own spiritual life, your own personal reading of God’s Word, your own prayer life. Don’t blame them or use them as an excuse. Be an example they can respect and follow. Show them what a true Christian looks like.

Timothy had a hard job on his hands, since he was facing false teachers and blasphemers that were tearing apart the church. He had to work and be the proper influence for the Christians there at Ephesus. As teens today, you also have a hard task ahead of you. Many in the church think that you don’t need to be working yet. God says otherwise. You can and should be an example for others to see. Each one of you has your own group of friends that only you can influence. So be the example. In your speech, in your conduct, in your love, your faith and your purity. Show them the truth, and never neglect your own Christianity.

Becoming More Honorable

Becoming More Honorable

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

It takes a special individual of both breed and brand to truly impact the world. The fact is, many will live their lives comfortable and content to never break any molds or “step outside the box,” as they say. Most believers understand that God has called us out of this world to be lights and to be different, but that means being uncomfortable (James 1:2-4). We don’t like that aspect of faithful walking and at times the fire inside us and the will to go on is at the verge of being snuffed out. On every side we are surrounded by a raging current of mainstream ideologies and beliefs that drown the masses sweeping them closer towards eternity—unprepared. That familiar and depressing reality can discourage and frustrate us to the point of tears. Preachers, elders, and leaders are constantly fighting these feelings as they huff and puff under the weight of it all. Christian fathers and mothers anxiously worry about that painfully uncertain future their children will battle. Young people are plagued with convincing thoughts that a faithful life is all but impossible today. How can we make an impact? You may wonder what difference you could possibly make as you observe such a powerful and evil force. Here is the bad news, it’s hard. But here is the wonderful news; it’s worth it! God has given us an instruction manual on how to become mighty misfits in a culture that rejects righteousness. There are permanent footprints left by the feet of godly men throughout history, and their tracks lead to victory for those that choose to follow them.

For example, there is the trailblazer and zealous disciple, Paul. He serves as an inspiring nonconformist when he abandons his previous life of riches, respect, and comfort. His courage, faith, and determination can produce a powerful stirring in our spirits. If that man with the thorn can overcome fear and defeat the devil’s endeavors, despite his own weakness, then by the grace of God we can too. Our lives can leave an impact and they can serve as beacon of light for generations to come. 

Notice how Jabez demonstrates this point in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Within a lengthy list of family lines that make up the sons of Judah, Jabez breaks the mold. While numerous names are given, there is something more to be said of Jabez. He stands out as one who was “more honorable” than those who were before him in verse 9. Though his name means “son of my sorrow,” a label associated with affliction, he refuses to let this name define his future. 

The key to his success is given in the following verse which says, 

Jabez called upon the Lord saying, ‘oh that you would bless me, your hand be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not give me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.”

 That verse is loaded with valuable lessons for this age and every age to follow. 

Lesson one: 

Don’t interpret your future by looking at your past. 

It doesn’t matter what family you were born into or how you were raised. We all have been given at least three common blessings. If you are made in the image of God, and you are, then that means you have talent, opportunity, and a life. The amount of talent, number of opportunities, and quality of that life is irrelevant. You have everything you need to succeed which is precisely what our Father desires. 

Lesson number two: 

Only God can grant you gainful glory.

 Jabez  established his lasting legacy and was victorious because he understood one thing. God is the God of impartiality. He offers a heavenly hand to help the stereotypically weak and sinful human break the stereotype. The cards of life you hold in your hand mean little to the God who owns the deck. Jabez, Paul, and many faithful others understood the weakness of humanity. Their lives are a statement and a confession— God can help anyone rise above the crowd. He can help you achieve the only recognition that counts and give you the precious gift of a future with certainty. The path to victory is a narrow one according to Matthew 7:14. Few have found it and few have finished it, but with the right Guide it can definitely be done. Are you unsure of your current location? Look down at the tracks you are following, and the guide  walking with you. If you are holding the hand of the Savior— you can be sure you’re going in the right direction. Allow that comfort to strengthen you and break out of whatever mold you are in. Let God use your weakness and failures to leave an eternal mark on a world that needs it. There is no congregation that can’t grow, no Christian that can’t improve, and no unsaved person that doesn’t deserve the chance to hear that life changing message of the cross. There’s a great day coming, and that should provoke some excitement as well as motivate us all to diligently and fearlessly work until then.

Your Dash

Your Dash

Tuesday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

(pictured with his dad and brother to his right)

Caleb Fudge

About a month ago I was sitting at a funeral, my dad was doing the ceremony, and he said something that stuck with me. A guy named Ron Tranmer wrote a poem, and said to sum it up: “When we go to a gravestone we often look at the dates on the stone, but we should look at the dash. The dash serves as an emblem of our time here on earth, although it is small, the dash has touched so many on this earth between our years.” I had never heard this before my dad quoted it, and I think there is a bigger message in this poem.

I want you to take a moment to think about your dash….. Most likely you thought of a big moment in your life, or even a sad time or a time you wish you could redo. As I was thinking of my dash I got caught up thinking about all of my accomplishments and accolades that I forgot about how much I’ve affected others with my dash. I think about Jesus and how he affected and helped so many people. One of the moments that came to mind was when Jesus feeds the 5000 (Mat. 14:13-21). Jesus went out of his way to do something for others. 

One thing that comes to mind when reading this passage was the tornado. I can remember coming here to BG (Bowling Green) after the tornado hit. I had no idea the destruction that was done, because I was in my house when it hit. But when our group was driving around the community and giving some water, food, clothes, or anything to someone that needed it, they were so thankful and relieved that they were getting food. I imagine the 5000 people were grateful when Jesus brought them food.

Our dash also is going to have some times where we wish we can go back and redo a bad decision. Just recently I had a Blue Stars Camp for DCI in March, and one of the teachers said this statement that I will always remember. “Every single time you do a rep of something you make a green marble and a red marble from how that rep was. Whenever it comes to showtime and you are about to do a show, you have the bag of all of these marbles, and for that show your run will be based on either the green or red marble that you chose.”

If we think about our life and how many decisions we make daily, that would add up to be a lot of marbles. Other people are going to remember you from those decisions, green and red. When you pass away and someone looks at your gravestone and looks at your dash, what do you want them to remember? Is it going to be a green or red marble?

The Entertainer And The Executioner

The Entertainer And The Executioner

Neal Pollard

They were born within four days of each other, both on the European continent. Both adored their mothers and resented their drunken fathers. Both grew up knowing real poverty. Both were incredibly intense and ambitious. Both were mesmerizing performers who commanded crowds. Both sported the same, strange mustache and bore a striking resemblance.

One became a comedian who made people laugh. The other became a dictator responsible for the death of millions. Neither were moral giants, but each used their influence for very different ends.

It doesn’t matter where or when one is born. To a certain degree, we do not have to be defined by the home we grew up in. Being poor is not an automatic determiner of either success or failure. Our looks are a neutral commodity. Our talents and opportunities are a blank canvas we choose to decorate as we please.

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 is a Divine reminder that we all take what God gives us and decide what we will do with it. Nothing is foreordained or forced upon us. We determine, both by action and inaction, to be a servant or slothful. What we must be aiming for is much greater and higher than earthly ambition, whether to be loved or feared by the world. Our purpose must be to be “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). The good news is that where, when, and how you were born is a fact, but it does not have to define you. If we empty ourselves of ourselves and let Him fill us, He will define us!

Unity Through Subtraction

Unity Through Subtraction

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

As Paul works his way through some of the challenges and issues the Corinth congregation was dealing with, he turns his attention to an awful situation. As he says, “It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). This was being openly practiced at the congregation, and Paul compares how they were reacting to how they should react. Even if the congregation unanimously embraced this situation, the end result would not be unity in truth. As Moses said in his day, “You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil” (Ex. 23:2).

Paul rallies them to unite in doing what pleased God. This began with amending their hearts, mourning rather than being arrogant (2). It should be followed by removing this man from their midst (2). Based on the report (presumably from Chloe’s household), Paul already knew what needed to be done (3). While the term “church discipline” is not used in the text, that is the action. Paul uses such words and phrases as “deliver to Satan” (5),  “clean out” (purge, 7), “do not associate” (9,12),  and “remove” (13). Why was such a drastic action necessary?

“THAT HIS SPIRIT MAY BE SAVED IN THE DAY OF THE LORD JESUS” (5)

By withdrawing fellowship from him, the goal was to induce his sorrow and cause his repentance. This relationship was unrighteous, and it would cost him his soul if he did not end it. How uncaring is it to validate an unscriptural relationship, knowing what Scripture says about it? Paul is about to write that fornicators and adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God (6:9). 

“A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENS THE WHOLE LUMP OF DOUGH” (6-8)

Paul calls this the leaven of “malice and wickedness” (8). Allowing sin unchecked and unaddressed to continue in a congregation does not make the sin all right. It allows the influence of sin to spread throughout the congregation. Remembering that the church is the body of Christ (see chapter 12), how can the body act in rebellion to its head and still please God? For the purity of Christ’s body, this action must be taken.

THERE IS GUILT BY ASSOCIATION (9-11)

Paul expands this beyond just the situation of the man with his father’s wife. He says not to associate with the immoral, covetous, idolatrous, reviling, drunkard, or swindling brother in Christ (11). Even eating a fellowship meal with them sent them the message that they were okay living in rebellion against God. Remember, this is not about vengeance or angry resentment. This was about honoring God’s will in a matter that God’s word clearly addresses. 

IT IS AN EXERCISE OF DIVINE JUDGMENT (12-13)

This was not a matter for human courts, which in most civilizations do not legislate morality. This is an “internal matter,” a child of God “judged” by the people of God according to the will of God. God established the pattern. 

When I preached in Virginia and Colorado, the elders in both churches practiced church discipline. It was done in such a loving way, with the elders first going to the individuals in various sinful situations and pleading for them to repent. When they refused, the elders brought the matter before the congregation urging any and all with any influence and relationship to plead with them. When that did not work, they announced that it was necessary to withdraw fellowship from them. There was no angry or hateful rhetoric, no gleeful attitude that such an action would be taken. To the contrary, it was as sad and solemn a moment as I’ve experienced in the family of God. I am happy to say that I have witnessed on several occasions the ultimate repentance and return of some of these wayward Christians. That was the goal in every situation. It would seem to me that one of the most neglected, disobeyed commands among God’s people is the practice of church discipline. It is unpleasant, frightening, and unpopular, but it is what God commands. God knows what is best and what is the best way to handle every situation among us. We should always trust Him and submit to His pattern for handling every difficulty and dilemma among us. The end result is biblical unity. 

Bowl full of dough
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!