A Tale Of Two Shepherds

A Tale Of Two Shepherds

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

It’s a safe assumption that even the unchurched have heard the 23rd Psalm, given its connection to funerals or memorial services. It is a most comforting psalm, but we note the implications for the deceased are only found in the final verse, in which David confidently asserts that the righteous dead will dwell in the Lord’s House forever. Otherwise, the psalm depicts what the Good Shepherd does for His living sheep. In the New Testament, Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10.11,14).  

In contrast to the 23rd Psalm, Jesus is the One walking not only in the shadow of the valley of death but into the grave itself, laying down His life for the sheep. However, this difference does not suggest that Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, does not still provide the same blessings to God’s sheep living under the New Covenant. Indeed, John 10.10 tells us He gives us abundant life. So, the first Shepherd, the One with Whom we are most familiar, is the Shepherd Whose voice we must hear (John 10.3-5, 14-16). 

But what of the other shepherd? For illustrative purposes, we will call him “Mammon.” In Psalm 49, the psalmist, presumably one of Korah’s sons, presents a didactic poem. Essentially, by calling it didactic, we are acknowledging that it is a poem that teaches an important lesson (or lessons). The instruction found in Psalm 49 is a warning against trusting in one’s riches. In Psalm 49.14, the psalmist says: 

“They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions” (NASB1995). 

Despite sounding like a 1980s hair metal band, the 49th Psalm teaches about the “Death Shepherd.” The “they” in the first part of verse 14 are those trusting in material wealth. The latter part of the verse reveals that death will separate them from their wealth. Note that the son of Korah provides a parenthetical contrast. The upright will prevail over them in the morning. Commentators acknowledge this is an understanding of a coming resurrection day, even if not explicitly stated. You can come away with no other interpretation, especially as you read the next verse. 

“But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself” (Psalm 49.15 NASB1995).  

On the other hand, Mammon will prevent you from being able to serve God (Matthew 6.24). He fills one with anxiety and makes them forget the Providence of God (Matthew 6.25-34). The Death Shepherd is an enticing distraction, not unlike the storied Pied Piper of Hamelin, who led away the innocents with his magical piping. The Death Shepherd entrances the susceptible sheep with wealth but pastures them in destruction from which the sheep cannot escape. Both this son of Korah and Jesus, through His Parable of the Rich Fool, remind us that one’s riches end up the property of another after death (Psalm 49.10; Luke 12.16-21). Thus, one forfeits his or her immortal spirit for nothing worthwhile compared to the price he or she pays (Matthew 16.26).  

Two voices are calling to the sheep today. One is the voice of the Good Shepherd. The other voice is the Death Shepherd. Endeavor to make sure you heed the correct One so that you end up in the correct sheepfold!   

The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Apparently, mankind has been curious about Jesus’ childhood and has desired to “fill in the blanks” concerning His temperament, personality, and activities during those formidable years. Most famously, the apocryphal (literally, “hidden writings,” not claiming or meeting the test of inspiration) “Gospel of Thomas” writes detailed, lengthy accounts of what Jesus did and how Jesus was as a boy. Mary Jane Chaignot summarizes this book, saying, “The gospel portrays Jesus as already endowed with special powers, but still having the mind of a child – a child who didn’t always use those powers wisely” (reference). Truly, a reading of this “gospel” (you can find the entire text: here) contradicts the idea of a sinlessly perfect Savior who could be our substitute and is at odds with the little we do see in the inspired writings of the gospels. It reflects humanity’s tendency to make God in his own image (see Psalm 50:21). Having said that, we benefit from what Luke is led to share with us from an incident when Jesus is twelve years old (2:42). “At the age of 12 a boy was prepared for his entry to the religious community which took place when he was 13” (Marshall, NIGTC, 126).

HE WAS FAITHFULLY TRAINED BY HIS PARENTS (Luke 2:41-42)

Luke reveals another fact consistent with what we’ve already seen from Joseph and Mary. They were faithfully obedient to the Law’s demands and commands. Every year, they went to the Passover feast (41). Did you know the entire nation of Israel neglected to properly observe the Passover from the days of Samuel to the time of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:21-23)? That means that such spiritual greats as David, Solomon, and Hezekiah failed in this regard during their illustrious reigns. Jesus’ parents made sure He was there every appointed time. That’s where we find Him in this account. By application, what a lesson for us as parents interested in the proper training of our children. At its best, this is difficult as we compete with the world’s message and appeal. We cannot afford to lose ground by keeping them from the fellowship of God’s people. Joseph and Mary were stewards of a precious soul. 

HE WAS ENGROSSED IN LEARNING GOD’S WORD (43-47)

Jesus obviously did not restrict His study of Scripture to the “assemblies,” though. His family stayed the prescribed time in Jerusalem for the feast (seven days, according to Exo. 12:15), but Jesus, unencumbered with the time concerns of adults, stays behind (43)–not to play or get into mischief, but to sit in the temple among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions (46). His level of comprehension and depth of explanation amazed these experts on the Law of Moses, the best of the best (47). Seeing the spiritual focus of twelve-year-old Jesus, I am convicted to push myself to more intensely long for the nourishment of God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Pet. 2:2). 

HE WAS IN SUBJECTION TO HIS PARENTS (48-51)

Luke tells us of the distress His family felt when they discovered He was not in the caravan of their relatives and other fellow-pilgrims making the long, arduous journey back to Nazareth. They go back and search for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple (44-46). Anyone who has even briefly lost their children at the mall or left them at the church building can well imagine what Joseph and Mary must have felt. This special child with which they were entrusted is lost! Where did He sleep those few nights He was alone? How early did He arrive and how late did He stay? When His parents do find Him, they find Him content and apparently unaware that they were looking for Him. His answer perplexes them, that He was being about His Father’s business. They felt mistreated, but nothing in Jesus’ reply demonstrates disrespect or dishonor. Luke reinforces this both with the statement of fact, that “He continued in subjection to them,” and the statement about His character (52). The One who would later demonstrate such amazing preaching and power was properly preparing Himself. That preparation included being what He should be in the home. 

HE WAS GROWING IN EVERY GOOD WAY (52)

There are biblical statements which are incredibly comprehensive. The five fundamental demonstrations of nature, time, force, motion, space, and matter, are revealed in the first verse of the Bible. Here, the four areas of human development, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social, are evident in the life of young Jesus. He “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (52).  Parents, this teaches us about the responsibility we have to encourage the balanced development of our children. We cannot afford to neglect any of these areas. Do not downplay or downgrade the importance of learning and an education which does not come at the expense of faith. Help them to take care of their physical bodies, with proper nutrition, exercise, and teaching them to work and play. Make sure they are socially well-adjusted, not just with peers but also those older and younger than them–able to properly interact with strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Most of all, strive to develop their knowledge of the Bible and faith in the God who loves them. It’s a difficult balancing act, but it can be done! Like Jesus, our children need to grow in every good way!

Advocacy And Standards (1 John: Part Two)

Advocacy And Standards (1 John: Part Two)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John 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. 

Advocacy & Standards

My children, I’m writing all of this to you to help you avoid sin. But when we do sin, we have someone who came from God and who advocates for us: Jesus Christ, the morally perfect one who gets rid of every one of our sins. He doesn’t just take care of our sins, he does the same thing for the whole world! 

We can know for sure that we know him if we do what he’s told us. Anyone who claims to know God but doesn’t do what he’s told us is a liar. The truth doesn’t exist in them. 

If we do what he’s told us to do, the truth is in us and God’s love is, too. That’s how we know we’re with him. If we claim to be with him, we’re obligated to live by the same standard Jesus lived by. 

“Get Up!”

“Get Up!”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The phrase “got up” is found 41 times in the Bible. It is used four times in Matthew 9, of four different people and situations. I want us to make some application of that.

A struggling man got up and went home. This is the man brought to Christ by his four friends. Jesus began the encounter, “Take courage, your sins are forgiven” (2). This upset the Pharisees and Jesus proved His power by healing the man of his paralysis. He sends him on his way, saying, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home” (6). That’s exactly what he did (7). This amazed everyone who saw it. But what about this man? He never says a word. All we know is he obeyed Jesus. He got up and went home. When we are healed by Jesus, part of our responsibility is to take that to our homes. That may not seem like much, but it’s a great opportunity. We should go home and show our family how much this week has positively effected you. Be a blessing to your home!

A sinful man got up and followed Jesus. This is the narrator of the gospel, Matthew. He was a tax collector and Jesus called him to follow. Tax collectors were lumped in with other sinners (10-11), but they receive dishonorable mention. Matthew 9:9 says, “And he got up and followed Him.” Following Jesus changed him pretty quickly. All of us when we come to Jesus come as sinners (Ecc. 7:20; Rom. 3:23; 1 Jn. 5:19). But following Jesus will bring change (Mat. 16:24). When our sins are washed away, we are committing to follow Him and spend our lives growing closer to Christ.

A spiritual man got up and served. The third person to “get up” in this chapter is Jesus. Jairus’ daughter has died and he tells Jesus he believes He can raise her from the dead. What great faith! What does Jesus do? “He got up and began to follow Him, and so did His disciples” (19). Two things are noteworthy. First, the Creator of the universe was humble. He simply gets up and goes to serve. For good measure, He heals a sick lady on the way. Jesus demonstrated greatness by serving (Mat. 20:25-28; John 13:12-17). Second, servants influence others. The disciples got up too. Godly service is contagious! Following Jesus will lead us to serve. We must “get up” and take that mindset with us every day (Phil. 2:5ff)!

A sleeping girl got up and lived. Jairus’ daughter had died, but Jesus tells the mourners and the crowd, “Leave, for the girl has not died, but is asleep” (24). They thought Jesus was joking, but He showed that He could raise the dead as though she was just sleeping. But the girl “got up” (25). And the news spread throughout the land (26). It is so easy to fall asleep spiritually. Our fire can go out and our passion for Christ can leave us. Sometimes, God tells us, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14). We may need to wake up, get up and live the example of Christ like never before. 

Maybe, we see ourselves in one or more of these individuals and their situations in Matthew nine. All of us must get up and go home, get up and follow Jesus, get up and serve, and get up and live. That is the essence of revival! 

Twelve Ultimate People Skills

Twelve Ultimate People Skills

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard


Some people just seem to be born with great people skills. Perhaps their personality type just naturally draws others to them. While natural ability may give some a leg up, the great news is that anyone can learn to work well with others and you can develop better interpersonal skills. In fact, it’s really a biblical command!

The church is made up of all kinds of people and that being the case, we must all be in the people business. Thankfully, our Lord doesn’t leave us high and dry to try and figure these things out on our own. Dispersed throughout the Bible we find several sections of scripture that teach us how to communicate, empathize, and get along with others effectively. God’s interpersonal skills cannot be matched. As the Creator, He understands exactly how humans think and behave. Here are twelve insights on interpersonal skills sent to us from above.

1. Speak evil of no one (I Thess. 5:14)

2. A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger(Proverbs 15:1)

3. The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increasespersuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21)

4. Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2)

5. Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10)

6. Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)

7. As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31)

8. Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12)

9. Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact withHim? (Matthew 25:40)

10. Season your speech with grace. It’s the saviors All-Spice for everyrelationship building goal (Col. 4:5-6)

11. Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)

12.Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, begentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15)

Notice how many passages in the Bible command us to speak differently than everyone else? All of these insights can be simply summed up in just one sentence. Talk, walk, and live more like Jesus. He was perfect in every way and that includes how he interacted with others. Modeling ourselves after the Savior will not only improve our relationship skills with others, but also with Him.

Jesus also teaches us that no matter how gentle and loving we are, we’ll still make some people upset. That’s alright! As long as we’re acting like the Lord in all things.

The Herodian Dynasty: Herod The Great

The Herodian Dynasty: Herod The Great

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The Herodian dynasty actually began during the civil wars of the first century B.C., when Palestine passed from Hasmonean (a Jewish family that included the Maccabees) into Roman rule. “The name ‘Herod’ is Greek and originated with a shadowy ancestor about whom, even in antiquity, little was known. Two ancient traditions make him either a descendant of a notable Jewish family with a lineage traceable to the Babylonian exile or a slave in the temple of Apollo in the Philistine city of Ashkelon. Neither can be proved” (Achtemeier 385). For well over a century and a half, the Herods would figure prominently in the Roman government under a multitude of emperors from 67 B.C. to about 100 A.D. The first ruler of this dynasty is Antipater I, who is appointed governor of Idumaea by the Hasmoneans. The Idumaeans are forced to “convert” to the Jewish faith, making them Jews at least in name. Meanwhile, Antipater’s son, Antipater II, through military and political savvy, earned Roman citizenship for his family and positions of power for his oldest two sons, Phasael and Herod. The latter was named governor of Galilee and was ultimately known as “Herod the Great.”

“Herod the Great” is the first of this dynasty to be mentioned in Scripture. He has a long reign characterized by guile, violence, and political alliance. By the time we read about him at the birth of Jesus, he’s months from dying. He had had ten wives and borne several sons who would fight with each other before and after his death. He had won acclaim among the Romans for his grandiose building projects, including the city of Sebaste, Strato’s Tower, Caesarea Maritime, Masada, Machaerus, the Herodium in Perea, the Alexandrium, Cypros, Hyrcania, and the Herodium southeast of Bethlehem (ibid. 386-387). No doubt his greatest architectural achievement was the extravagant rebuilt Jewish temple in Jerusalem, which the disciples of Jesus took such great pride in (Mark 13:1). 

This Herod is shown to be cunning (Mat. 2:7), deceitful (Mat. 2:8), violent-tempered (Mat. 2:16), and vicious (Mat. 2:16-19). Information gleaned from outside the Bible confirm these character traits. Josephus especially chronicles Herod’s depravity with reams of material about murders he committed, intrigues he entered into, and power struggles he fought (Antiquities 14-18). Blomberg observes, 

It is often observed that there are no other historical documents substantiating Herod’s “massacre of the innocents.” But given the small size of Bethlehem and the rural nature of the surrounding region, there may have been as few as twenty children involved, and the killings would have represented a relatively minor incident in Herod’s career, worthy of little notice by ancient historians who concentrated on great political and military exploits (68). 

In addition to what we read of him in Matthew 2, “many of Herod’s building projects serve as backdrops for events of the New Testament” (Winstead, n.p.). Bethlehem is near the Herodium. Gospel writers repeatedly reference his rebuilt Jerusalem temple (John 7-10). The book of Acts refers to his coastal city of Caesarea, called Caesarea Maritima (Acts 8; 21:8; 23:33)–different from Caesarea Philippi in Matthew 16:13. As a living legacy to his wickedness, three of his sons disputed over what and how much territory they would rule. Augustus Caesar settled the matter by dividing the kingdom “but withholding the royal title of “king” from all of the heirs” (Garcia-Treto 378). 

The most notable thing about a man who pursued and was granted a measure of earthly greatness is the contrast between himself and the baby Jesus, “king of the Jews” (Mat. 2:2). He sought power and greatness. Jesus emptied Himself to be born in our likeness (Phil. 2:5-7). Herod sought self-preservation, but Jesus came for our preservation (1 Tim. 1:15). Herod jealousy guarded his position, but Jesus “gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). We will see the contrast between Jesus’ kingdom and the sordid legacy of King Herod, revealed in what the Bible says of his wicked descendants. 

Sources Cited

 Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible dictionary 1985 : 385. Print.

 Blomberg, Craig. Matthew. Vol. 22. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992. Print. The New American Commentary.

 Garcia-Treto, Francisco O. “Herod.” Ed. Mark Allan Powell. The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (Revised and Updated) 2011 : 378. Print.

 Winstead, Melton B. “Herod the Great.” Ed. John D. Barry et al. The Lexham Bible Dictionary 2016 : n. pag. Print.

palace ruins built into the rocks in Masada, Palestine.
Herod’s Palace at Masada (Photo Credit: Kathy Pollard, July 2017)

Do You Know Him Or Know Of Him?

Do You Know Him Or Know Of Him?

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard


God speaks of Himself as simply “I Am.” This is one powerful statement depicts His infinite presence and His existence through every age. What does it mean to know Him? How do you know if you do? To know of Jesus is very different than knowing Him.

John is one of those books in the New Testament that will help us to become better aquainted with the Christ. John paints us a vivid picture of who He was and is on a deeper level than even the three previous books.

He’s the Bread of life, Light of the world, the Gate, Good Shepherd, Resurrection and Life, the Truth, and the Vine. All of these titles found within the book teach us a little more about the Savior of the world. There are seven “I Am” statements in John referring to Jesus and three hundred throughout the entire Bible. They begin in Genesis and end in Revelation, and in many books in-between. You just can’t read very far without discovering something very profound about it’s Writer.

He’s eternal. God’s desired response to this is simply for us to believe, respond, and live with our minds and hearts prepared to live with Him. When Jesus describes Himself as the “I Am” it makes the religious leaders want to kill Him in John 8. To know Jesus, to really know Him, is something that many people have not fully understood. Even as Jesus walked among us mortals and witnessed His miraculous power there were still several that didn’t realize what it meant to follow Him Luke 9:57-62.

While it’s true that everyone is made in the image of God, few reflect the Father’s image. Those that know Jesus introduce others to Him. With the knowledge that we are imperfect, let’s not forget that we also have the ability to have a relationship with Him. I am flawed and I am weak, but the Great I Am is interested in who I am.

By the grace of God, I am His child. He is the bread of life that sustains us, the light that guides us, the gate we’ll walk through, and the truth that will save us. It’s not how great I am, but how great the Great I Am is. Do you know Jesus?

Jesus Has All Authority

Jesus Has All Authority

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Jesus has come to Jerusalem and taken the gloves off. By His unparalleled authority, He is directly challenging the religious establishment whose shallow righteousness has been rejected by His Father. He has come to take the Old Law out of the way and establish His church. It’s teaching like this parable in Luke 20:9-18 that will provoke those leaders to the point that they will trump up charges and bribe false witnesses to arrest, try, and have Him crucified. This parable is stark and shocking, and the moral as heavy as an anvil. Notice.

THESE LEADERS WERE GUILTY OF IMPROPER STEWARDSHIP (9). The “man” in the parable represents God, the Father. He made Israel a nation and gave the Jews a Law to follow and keep. The Jews, particularly the religious leadership, were entrusted with faithfully carrying it out, but they did not. 

THEY WERE GUILTY OF TAKING WHAT DIDN’T BELONG TO THEM (10). In fact, these leaders–dubbed “the vine-growers” by Jesus in this parable–thought that they were in charge. They sought to make people subject to them, to follow their rules (cf. Rom. 10:3-4). The end result was vain religion (Mat. 15:8-9).

THEY WERE GUILTY OF ABUSING THOSE SENT TO THEM (11-15). The “slaves” sent to them were presumably prophets and teachers, no doubt inclusive of John the Baptist. These were the Father’s spokesmen, come to teach and correct them. Each one sent was treated the same, sad way: they “beat him and sent him away empty-handed.” Last of all, the son was sent (13-14). The “owner” (the Father) sent Him, saying, “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him” (13). Instead, seeing Him as the heir, they plotted to kill Him (14). Obviously, Jesus is referring to Himself and the very thoughts these religious leaders were thinking as He told the parable! 

THEY WERE GUILTY OF LOSING WHAT WAS ENTRUSTED TO THEM (16-18). Instead of being convicted by this parable, these religious leaders recoil at the moral of the parable: “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others” (15-16). Their emotion boils over and they audibly reply to Jesus’ parable, “May it never be!” They missed the travesty of the behavior they and their forefathers had shown to God’s messengers and the sin they were about to perpetrate on His Son. They didn’t want to lose their grip on the power and influence they had taken. But Jesus doubles down, changing the imagery from a vineyard to building construction. They were going to reject Jesus, the stone, but He would be made the chief corner stone. He would judge and destroy them, if they did not abandon their rebellion.

Jesus is full of love, kindness, and peace. But, that’s an incomplete picture of Him. He came to establish His rule and reign. He must be King and Lord of our lives. We must submit to His way and truth to enjoy His life. 

Open Bible on a black table with book marker and pink highlighting
Jesus Has All Authority
Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Lessons We Learn From Jesus’ Temptations

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

img_5670

Neal Pollard

Jesus knew temptation. The writer of Hebrews makes that point about Him in assuring us He, as our High Priest, knows just what we are going through in this life (2:18; 4:15). His suffering allows Him to sympathize. I am comforted to know that He understands, since He is like me (Heb. 2:17). Luke (4:1-13) records this significant and pivotal moment in Jesus’ life before He begins His public ministry. It gives me necessary insight into who Jesus is, and it helps me fight the common battle against the enticements of my flesh, my eyes, and my pride.

TEMPTATION STRIKES THOSE IN A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. To be clear, temptation strikes “every man” (Heb. 4:15). But, sometimes we conclude that it’s not so bad or so frequent for the spiritually strong. Here is the perfect Son of God, described as full of the Holy Spirit and led by the Spirit (1), who encounters the tempter (2). Being spiritually strong can help make navigating temptation easier than it is for those who live according to the flesh (Rom. 8:5-14), but no one was closer to God and more spiritually healthy than Jesus as He walked the earth. How helpful to consider Paul’s warning here: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). 

TEMPTATION STRIKES IN PREDICTABLE AREAS. John classifies temptation into three major categories: “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” (1 Jn.2:16). Methodical Luke lists Jesus’ temptation in that very order (cf. Mat. 4:1-11). The serpent, approaching Eve, must have appealed to these very areas at the beginning (Gen. 3:6). The devil does not have to get more complicated than that because these avenues are overwhelmingly effective for him. Though this and other passages reveal the Evil One’s intentions and efforts, we are fully accountable for how we respond to temptation (Jas. 1:13-15). We must take responsibility for how we handle temptation. 

TEMPTATION STRIKES WHEN WE ARE VULNERABLE. Jesus has gone an unfathomable 40 days without food when He encounters the devil (2ff). The devil goes straight for this susceptible area. Think back to times when you haven’t gotten proper rest, you faced stress and pressure, you were sick or felt poorly, and other trying times. These can easily become doors we open to sin. All of us will experience physical and emotional weakness. We must be aware that these lead to spiritual exposure. 

TEMPTATION CAN MAKE US CALL WHAT WE KNOW INTO QUESTION. Twice, the devil uses conditional statements to try and create doubt. First, he says, “If You are the Son of God” (3). He called Jesus’ identity into question. Then, he says, “if You worship me” (7). He seeks to get Jesus to question His loyalty. It was not a matter of what Jesus intellectually knew, but Jesus dwelled in the flesh (John 1:14; Heb. 2:14). Be aware that temptation will cause us to question things we know, too. That includes our exalted identity and our true motivation.

TEMPTATION IS THWARTED BY AN OMNIPOTENT TOOL. Jesus wins His battles with the devil and temptation by leaning on truth. There are 86 quotations of Deuteronomy (the second giving of the Law of Moses) in the New Testament, and Jesus quotes this book in reference to each of the devil’s temptations (8:3; 6:13; 6:16). Proper knowledge and handling of Scripture help even when enemies of truth, even the devil, try to misuse Scripture against us (as he does with Jesus, misapplying Psalm 91:11-12). Scripture is God’s own weapon, given to us not to cut and maim others but to fight off temptation and fend off the biggest threats to our faith and soul (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17). 

It is wonderful to contemplate a day in which temptation will be permanently past-tense (cf. Rev. 21:1ff; 1 Cor. 15:55-58). Until then, we benefit so much from seeing how Jesus coped with the bane of temptation. It also helps us appreciate what He endured in order to give us salvation. 

Vasily Polenov (1909), “Christ In The Desert”
Make Like A Tree And “Leaf”

Make Like A Tree And “Leaf”

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

The Redwood National Park in California is home to the world’s tallest tree. Standing at over 380 feet tall this tree is incredible to look at. The California Redwood is estimated to be able to reach a staggering 425 feet in its lifetime. It continues to grow all its life and there’s a reason it gets so tall, as the lifespan of this tree is up to 2,200 years. Think about that! There are redwood trees that are still growing today that were planted 200 years before Christ was born.
The California Redwood is massive. It is over 29 feet in diameter and has a root system that spreads over three miles underground. These trees are truly incredible. But like most trees, the key to their growth is water. California redwoods consume over 56,000 gallons of water each year or 150 gallons of water each day!
 
In Psalm 1:1, we are given this description: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” This person is blessed when they avoid the progression of sin. Notice how the psalmist describes the progression:
 
  • Walk not in the counsel of the wicked.
  • Nor Stands in the way of sinners.
  • Nor Sit in the seat of the scoffers.
 
These steps illustrate what people do when they are tempted by sin. They walk among it, noticing the wicked and their deeds. Once they walk among it, their curiosity gets the best of them and they begin to pause and spend time in the presence of sinners. Finally they are fully drawn into sin and they sit down and practice the evil that they have observed.
 
Rather than walking, standing and sitting with sinners, the righteous man delights in the law of the Lord. Verse two says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The choice is obvious for the righteous man. He avoids the sin and chooses the Word of God over anything else.
 
Verse three reads, “He is like a tree that is planted by the waters that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all he does he prospers.” The source of life for this tree is water. Just like the California Redwood needs water in order to grow, the saved man spends his time next to the source of life. What is this water? John 4:14 reveals, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” For the Christian, our source of life comes from Christ. We are able to grow and thrive on the words of God.
 
Let’s make the decision daily to be firmly planted in the words of life. That way, we too can be counted as righteous!
General Sherman (Sequoia National Park)