WHEN GOD CONQUERS A HEART

WHEN GOD CONQUERS A HEART

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The story of Rahab the harlot is one of the better-known stories of the entire Conquest Period. Perhaps it is because it occurs before but is connected with the most famous (and first) place to be conquered, Jericho, but it is also because of who the heroine of the story is. Three New Testament writers mention her, Matthew for her place in the Messianic genealogies (Mat. 1:5), the writer of Hebrews for her faith (Heb. 11:31), and James for her works (Jas. 2:25). But, there is no escaping who she was or how she made her living when Israelite spies paid her a visit. The Hebrew word, ZANA, means “to commit fornication, be a harlot, play the harlot, illicit heterosexual intercourse,” TWOT). They say, “Such persons received hire (Deut 23:19), had identifying marks (Gen 38:15; Prov 7:10; Jer 3:3), had their own houses (Jer 5:7), and were to be shunned (Prov 23:27)” (ibid.). She is not only a Canaanite, but she operated a sordid business.

But from the moment we hear from her in Scripture, we can see that there is much more to her than the aforementioned description. Despite the fact that she needed to do more growing (don’t we all?), she shows the difference God can make in even the most unlikely places. What do we find in Joshua two?

When God conquers a heart, one will be ruled by His authority (2-5). The Bible doesn’t sanction Rahab’s lie, but consider for a moment that she was ordered by the King of Jericho to surrender the two spies from Israel. She feels no allegiance to the earthly ruler, and she will explain that it is because of her faith in Jehovah (9). If God has conquered our hearts, won’t we say with Peter and John, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)?

When God conquers a heart, one will help His people (6-7,14-21). She saved the spies’ lives. She hid them and helped them escape. She recognized these men as God’s servants doing God’s business. She wanted to serve and protect them. Ultimately, she lets them down through her window and enables their escape (15, 20). Those whose hearts God possess are allies of the righteous (Mal. 3:18). 

When God conquers a heart, one has faith in God’s provision (8-13). Nothing in the text tells us that the spies preached to her, yet somehow she had arrived at the conviction that she could have hope of salvation. She says she knew God had given Israel the land (9), something these spies’ fathers most likely did not believe (cf. Num. 13-14). She saw how afraid her fellow-citizens were of God’s wrath and power, working through His people (9). She had faith based on the signs and works God had performed from the Red Sea to the Amorites (10). It led her to acknowledge God as “God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (11). Therefore, she asked, in exchange for protecting the spies, for the deliverance of her family and herself (12-13). She hadn’t seen the battle yet, but she believed that it belonged to the Lord. It takes genuine faith to draw a conclusion like that. We’ve not experienced death, the resurrection, the judgment, and an eternal destiny, but do we have faith that God will provide for us through them (cf. 1 Pet. 1:3-9)? If God possesses our hearts, we do!

When God conquers a heart, one will meet the conditions of salvation (14-21). The spies made the salvation of Rahab and her family conditioned upon three things: tie a scarlet thread in her window (18), gather all she wanted to be saved into her house (18), and not tell anyone these spies’ business (20). There was no picking and choosing what she preferred to follow. Obedience meant the difference in life and death (5:25). So today, a heart which God owns will not shun to do anything His Word commands. There’s no arguing, bargaining, debating, or rationalizing, but instead a faith that does what God wills. 

The spies’ mission was a great success and Joshua was encouraged (22-24). They were ready to do battle, ready to conquer. Back in Jericho, there was a woman born into a life of godlessness who had lived a life of worldliness who now faced the hope of happiness and righteousness. Great things follow when we allow God to conquer our hearts! 

Neal’s Note: I send out an email most mornings that I call “The Lehman Learner.” I walk through books of the Bible (in the past I’ve done the Psalms, Luke, 1-2 Corinthians, 1-2 Kings, etc.). This article is from last week. If you would like to receive The Lehman Learner, write to this email and request it. You will be added to the mailing list.)

Fred Baur

Fred Baur

Thursday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

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Braden Wilson

It was 2008, just 20 days shy of his 90th birthday, when Fred Baur died. On the way to the funeral home, his kids decided to stop at a nearby Walgreens to pick up some salty snacks. They debated for a bit, should it be sour cream and onion, cheddar cheese maybe? Larry and his siblings finally decided on Original. 

You see, Fred adored his kids, but his passion was snacks. His accomplishments included a variety of frying oils and freeze-dried ice cream. 

Fred was an American organic Chemist that had received both his masters and PhD at The Ohio State University, and it was 1966 when P&G came calling. Evidently, in the 1960s, there was a problem with the packaging and shipping of potato chips. By the time the consumer would pick up potato chips at a store, well, they were merely in pieces. This is where P&G thought Fred could help solve this problem. 

After two years of experimentation, Fred developed a chip of dried potato flakes, added a bunch of unpronounceable ingredients, and cut them into thin hyperbolic paraboloids. With this shape, Fred could neatly stack his chips into his vacuum sealed tube. 

By this time, you know that I am referring to Fred’s invention of Pringles, but the story doesn’t end there. Fred still wasn’t done with his invention. 

There were problems:

First and foremost, they tasted like sawdust, so Fred spent another 2 years to improve the taste. Then, another issue. Frito-Lay sent lawyers because they said Fred’s chips weren’t potato chips at all because they were just 42% potato. 

After some time and haggling, they decided to call them potato crisps. 

Fred persevered.

He gave birth to an iconic brand that many of us still enjoy today. Through years of experimentation, development, and disappointments, lawyers-at one point P&G wanted to trash the idea. 

But Fred persevered. 

He was able to see his brand break 100 million in sales. He was able to see it break 500 million in sales. However, he wasn’t there in 2011 when P&G sold Pringles for almost 2.5 Billion Dollars. 

That brings us back to 2008 when Fred’s children showed up to the funeral home with the Original flavored can of pringles. Fred’s wish was to have his ashes be placed in a Pringles can when he passed. 

Fred got his wish.

As great as this story is, we wouldn’t have this story if it wasn’t for Fred’s perseverance. And as great as Fred’s perseverance was, we have so many examples of greater perseverance in the Bible. 

Consider Joshua, Job, Jeremiah, Nehemiah and our greatest example of perseverance, Jesus. These are just a few of the many examples the Bible gives us. 

Two points I want to quickly make about Perseverance, and the lesson is yours. 

Number 1. WE HAVE A NEED FOR PERSEVERANCE.

It’s not a matter of if, but when…Christians Will Face Tribulations in Life. Jesus says in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” 

Christ never promised us that this life would be a bed of roses. The Gospel never said we’d go to Heaven on “flowery beds of ease.” Rather, we are promised that we shall have hardships and tribulations in this life, especially if we are faithful Children of God.

Only those who persevere receive the reward. Revelation 2:10-11 tells us, “ Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.”

Number 2. PERSEVERANCE IS DEVELOPED IN TRIBULATION.

Romans 8: 18-28 can be summarized as this: Viewed in faith, tribulation is a friend rather than an enemy. I don’t know a lot of adversity that is necessarily fun, but we can learn from it, and we can grow from it. 

In Deuteronomy 8, the Israelites failed to see the benefits of their trials. 

In Numbers, we see there was an Exodus of over one Million Israelites. 

We later see that only two Persevered and reached the promised land. 

In 1 Corinthians and Hebrews, Paul admonishes us not to imitate the Israelites.

Rather than complain, rejoice in God’s work in your life. 

Difficulties and trials would not normally be considered an occasion for joy but think about James and Paul and how they exhort us to look beyond the immediate pain and discomforts of trials to the lasting effect they have on the character of the Christian. 

It is the development of our character, that should cause us to rejoice in adversity. Always remember who wins in the end. 

We all have mountains to climb and sometimes holes to dig ourselves out of. Perhaps you want to begin to persevere and put on the armor of God through Baptism. There is no better time than now. Perhaps you’ve been baptized, and you’re currently trying so hard to climb the mountain that you’re on and you’ve had setbacks. We would love to help you reach the peak. 

Living Life God’s Way

Living Life God’s Way

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

Carl Pollard

When it comes to sports, there are certain ways of playing. There are rules to follow, specific plays to make, and mistakes to avoid if a team wants to succeed. This same idea applies to our Christianity. In Joshua 1:5-9, we read of certain aspects needed in order to live life God’s way. By following these things we will reap the benefits that are found inside of Christ. 

Joshua says that God’s way is conditional. In Joshua 1:7, we read, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.” God gave Israel conditions to His being their God: be strong and courageous, do all according to the law of Moses, and do not turn from the right or to the left. 

Thinking about our personal relationship with God we can still apply these same commands to our spiritual lives today. For example, the blessings we are promised are received by being strong and courageous in the work place, doing all according to the law we are under (the new covenant), and not wavering in our faith. If we want to live our lives according to God’s will we must understand that our relationship to Him is conditional. Our relationship is based on our willingness to listen to His word. 

We must also understand that God’s way is a command, not a suggestion (1:7-8). He is the creator. He has the authority to create the way, He has the authority to make what He says a command. If we want the blessings of following His way, we must practice the commands He has given each one of us. 

Just as the Israelites were given certain commands, we also are commanded to follow certain laws. Love the Lord our God with ALL of our heart, soul, mind and strength. We are commanded to love God with every aspect of our lives (Matt. 22:36-40). When we think about our lives, every decision should be based on the will of God. We must recognize that God’s way of living is a command. 

If we want to live our lives God’s way we must recognize that the blessings we are promised are conditional, and the things we read in scripture are a command. But we should find joy in knowing that God’s way is comforting. Joshua 1:9 reads, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” 

There is absolutely no reason for us to tremble when the Creator is on our side. There is never a reason to be dismayed when the defeater of sin is with us. We have a loving God with us wherever we go in life. God’s way of living is best, and if we will let Him control our everyday lives we can find comfort, hope, and joy in Him. 

Picture taken by Neal Pollard at Jericho, 3/11/18
KNOCKING DOWN THE WALLS OF JERICHO

KNOCKING DOWN THE WALLS OF JERICHO

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

God had promised the land of Canaan as early as Abraham (Gen. 15:18ff). The first city of Israel’s conquest was Jericho (Josh. 6:1). The word about and reputation of God’s people preceded them, so Jericho “was tightly shut because of” them. Despite this, the LORD told Joshua that “the wall of the city will fall down flat” (Josh. 6:5). Israel followed God’s unorthodox battle plan and “the wall fell down flat” and “they took the city” (6:20). Though they’d suffer a setback because of one man’s disobedience, this was the dramatic start of what would be the accomplishment of the land promise made to Israel.

God also promised Abraham that in his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 22:18). This was fulfilled through Christ (Gal. 3:28). One of the ways Jesus proved that He was the Christ was “with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” in their midst (Acts 2:22). He started His ministry in Galilee (Mat. 4:17) and ended it in Jerusalem (Mat. 16:21), but near the end He had His own Jericho triumphs. He had not one, but two that are recorded by the gospel writers. One involved Him performing one of His many miracles, gaining a victory over sickness, but the other was a triumph of a different kind gaining a victory over Satan. 

Luke indicates Jesus was approaching Jericho when He encounters a blind beggar (Luke 18:35). Matthew and Mark also seem to record the same miracle, identifying this man as Bartimaeus, and showing perhaps “that the Saviour went in and out at the same gate of the city, and that the miracle falls into two parts” (Lange 282). But Jesus’ knocks down the wall between the haves and have nots, the socially acceptable and the socially unacceptable, when He has mercy on him and gives him his sight (Luke 18:37-43). Immediately after Bartimaeus, Jesus enters Jericho and passes through (19:1). Now, he knocks down the wall between the righteous and the sinner (19:7). He went to be a guest in the house of Zaccheus, who wanted to see Jesus so badly that he climbed a tree. The end result of this encounter is “salvation” (19:9). 

Isn’t it interesting that the Hebrew name for Jesus is “Joshua”? Isn’t it also interesting that Jesus performs these miracles in proximity to the walls of Jericho? The walls that Jesus knocks down are important to us today. They tell us that the gospel is for the poor, the hurting, the needy, the seedy, the rejects, and the sinner. Wasn’t God preparing us for this when Joshua spares a harlot and her family in the destruction of Jericho (Josh. 6:22-23)? 

Jesus was certainly about knocking down the walls we can be quick to build. Who does Jesus want us to be taking the gospel to today? Certainly, He’s not against those who are financially blessed (Zaccheus was). He’s not against those who are socially well-connected (many Christian converts in Acts and the epistles were). But, here is where Jesus is revolutionary. As Paul puts it, “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not” (1 Cor. 1:27-28). He chose “the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” (Jas. 2:5). 

What should His church look like today? The gospel transforms lives and lifts people morally and spiritually higher. But, He’s interested in the Rahabs, Bartimaeuses, and Zeccheuses of our day! Jesus wants to break down barrier walls (Eph. 2:14). He wants you and me using the gospel to do the job for Him today! 

Kathy in Jericho, March, 2018
Appreciating The Blessings In A Key Text

Appreciating The Blessings In A Key Text

Neal Pollard

Joshua 21:43-45 is the key text in that book because at this point that Joshua can say that God gave everything that had been promised. With the settling of the land, the land promise made to Abraham was now fulfilled. Israel was not fully a nation after becoming a people and having law, but now they are. Notice the facets of God’s promise to them.

“So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their Fathers” (43). God gave them physical blessings. They owned and called home the land God promised their ancestors.

“The Lord gave them rest on every side” (44). He gave them emotional blessings. This was a long time in coming for these battle-weary warriors. The anxiety of being the underdog, of facing frightening foes, all of that (at least for now) was behind them.

“No one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand” (44). He gave them spiritual blessings. These idolaters and heathen people could not stand before them and the Lord dispossessed them, giving them into the hands of His chosen people.

No wonder this summary statement is made: “Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass” (45). This was the God of Joshua. It’s also the God of us.

This text shows us how comprehensively God blessed the lives of His children. These verses speak of a material inheritance. Even if it is the choicest spot on the globe, it cannot compare to what God will give to His faithful. Let’s rejoice in the hope Peter shares, regarding the promise of His coming (2 Pet. 3:4). He writes, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:10-14).

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The supposed “Garden of Gethsemane” (photo credit: Carla Moore)

Avoiding A Ride On An Ancient Cycle

Avoiding A Ride On An Ancient Cycle

Neal Pollard

It has been called “The Dark Ages Of The Old Testament.” During the period of the judges, there was moral, economic, social, political and religious decline. We often read that, during this time, the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.

History keeps repeating itself in the book of Judges. The people do evil, God allows and oppressor to persecute them, the people turn back to God and plead for deliverance, and God raises up a deliverer to defeat the oppressor and deliver Israel. Here, we speak of the “cycle” of Judges: sin, servitude, sorrow, supplication, and salvation.

Their enemy invaders came from the East (Mesopotamia), the Southeast (Moab), the North (Canaan), the East (Midian and Ammon), and the Southwest (Philistia). It is interesting that Israel overcame Canaan in the militarily brilliant strategy orchestrated by God (Central Canaan—Josh. 7-8, Southern Canaan—Josh. 9-10, and then Northern Canaan—Josh. 11-12). As a result of Israel’s failure to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan, the six oppressions came from the central, south, and north—each places where God had given them victory. What a reminder that when we don’t defeat the enemy, he will return! The enemy was sin!

Here is my summary of the book of Judges, as seen in Judges 2:16-19:

  • The rulers—“Judges”
  • The role—“Delivered”
  • The rescued—“Them” (Israel)
  • The rivals—“Those” (God’s enemies)
  • The ruination—“Plundered them” (oppression)
  • The refusal—“They did not listen to their judges”
  • The reveling—“Played the harlot after other gods”
  • The retreat—“Turned said quickly”
  • The right road—“In which their fathers had walked”
  • The role models—“Father, obeying the commands of the Lord”
  • The resolution—“They did not so”
  • The raising—“The Lord raised them up judges”
  • The relationship—“The Lord was with the judges”
  • The restoration—“Delivered them from the hand of their enemies”
  • The repentance—“The Lord was moved to pity” (KJV—“It repented the Lord because of their groanings…”)
  • The return—“When their judge died, they would turn back”
  • The retrogression—“Acted more corruptly than their fathers”
  • The resilience—“Didn’t abandon their practice or stubborn ways”

The judge was the savior of the people. Time and time again, the people put themselves in a position to need some serious rescue, and our long-suffering God was willing to soften His heart to their cries. Eventually, His patience ran out and even in this time period there were severe consequences. How often do we need the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of the Father? Often, we need forgiveness for the same sins repeatedly. We wonder how Israel could fall into the same traps, but we do well to identify and avoid them in our own times. We have the benefit of both Old and New Testament Scripture, and they would have only had the writings of Moses and Joshua when they lived. May we learn from these ancient lessons (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11) and stay off that ancient cycle.

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OPTIMISM

OPTIMISM

Neal Pollard

Joshua and Caleb were positively optimistic. They surveyed the situation and saw the taking of Canaan as a no-lose situation (cf. Num. 14:7-9). But have you stopped to consider what made them so optimistic? When the majority was cursed with a pessimistic spirit, these men saw looming victory.

They were optimistic about the land (7). They didn’t just refer to it as the land, but as a good land. They saw it not just as a “good land,” but an exceedingly good land. The Hebrew word translated “exceedingly” means “power and strength.” The idea is that it’s exceptional. It’s the same word used in Deuteronomy 6:5, that “you shall love the Lord your God with all….”  The word is a word with great depth and the word God used to describe His view of creation in Genesis 1:31, which was “very” good. A passion that strong can’t be faked or contrived! They saw such potential in Canaan.

They were optimistic about the labor (9). Their faith led them to the optimistic conclusion that the Canaanites were their prey and that those native people’s protection was removed from them. They repeatedly admonished Israel not to fear them. Someone has said, “Fear wants to give your present to your past so you don’t have a future.”

They were optimistic about the Lord (8). He was the heart of their optimism. Joshua and Caleb mention His name three times in encouraging the people to take possession. They say that the Lord is with them and is pleased with them. To act with the assertion that the Lord is on our side is the height of optimism. They weren’t fooling themselves. God had already said He’d be with them, and they could look into the past and see His assistance and provision.

We have the same reasons to see this life with the same level of optimism. We don’t have a physical territory to inherit, but we still have a heavenly inheritance. Hebrews 9:15 tells us it’s eternal. Our labor is different, but we still should be optimistic about the battle with the enemy (Heb. 2:14-15). We live in a different age, but we serve the unchanging God (Mal. 3:6). A.W. Tozer has said, “He is immutable, which means that He has never changed and can never change in any smallest measure. To change he would need to go from better to worse or from worse to better.  He cannot do either, for being perfect He cannot become more perfect, and if He were to become less perfect, He would be less than God.”  All of this should give us the fuel for optimism however dark or doubtful the situation seems!

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THE MOANING OF A DOVE, THE GROWLING OF A LION

THE MOANING OF A DOVE, THE GROWLING OF A LION

Neal Pollard

One of the more interesting Hebrew words in the Old Testament is the word translated “meditate” in passages such as Psalm 1:2.   הָגָה (“Haga”), most often found among the poets and prophets, has a wide range of meaning depending on derivation of the root word.  Elihu uses the word to speak of the “rumbling” of God’s voice (Job 37:2). Moses uses the word to speak of a “sigh” (Ps. 90:9). Isaiah uses the word to speak of the “moaning” of a dove (38:14) and “growling” of a lion (31:4). The occult mediums “whispered” and “muttered” their incantations (8:19) (Harris, et al, TWOT, 1999, n/p).  Yet, the word is often used to speak of a low voice within, pondering and rehearsing what God’s Word has to say and what it means.  This is how David and Joshua use the term in speaking of meditating day and night on God’s Word (cf. Jos. 1:8).  It is possible that in carefully considering God’s Word, the student would rehearse or mouth the words of God as they contemplated and looked into it.  One lexicography renders it “to read in an undertone” (Koehler, et al, HAL, 1999, n/p).

How one studies the Bible is very personal, but for it to have value and assist us in living the way God wants us to, there has to be a process in place that takes us beyond mere reading to comprehension and then on to application.  Meditation upon the Bible seems a vital part of this.  When is the last time in your personal Bible reading that you memorized, rehearsed, and meditated upon what you read that day?  Do you revisit in your mind what you read earlier, pondering meaning and relevance in your attempt to live as God wants you to live?  Have you found yourself returning to its truths again and again, convicting yourself of needed changes and improvements in your Christian walk?

Meditating upon God’s Word will build your reverence of it, your conviction that it as modern and relevant as today’s sunrise, and your view of it as the inspired, authoritative Word of God.  It will bind your mind and heart to the mind and heart of God.  It will help you elevate your thoughts and consider the bigger picture of eternity and not just the mundanity of earth.  It will have you singing with David, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps. 119:97).

How Do We Avoid Going Into The Wilderness?

How Do We Avoid Going Into The Wilderness?

Neal Pollard

I thought about this question as I meditated today on the state of the church in our nation.  Composed of so many dedicated, wonderful people, the church as a whole, nonetheless, is tempted to drift from biblical moorings. It is anecdotal to observe seismic philosophical shifts in the leadership and direction of various congregations, pulled for one reason or another from the place and being the people God wants it to be.  The whole wilderness analogy is drawn from the events in the book of Numbers, a wandering that went for forty years in the wake of a 40-day scouting trip.  It might have been different for Israel, and it can be different for us.  Return with me for a moment to that fateful event that would forever shape their nation.

  • It begins with leadership (Num. 13:25ff).  The spies chosen were “leaders” among the 12 tribes (13:2).  Obviously, they had sway with the people (14:1).  Because of their negative influence, the people went the wrong direction–into the wilderness and ultimately to their deaths.
  • It involves faith-driven obedience (Num. 13:30). Caleb understood this and argued for the people to proceed on that basis.  Yet, their reaction was the opposite of obedience.  Moses, Aaron, and Joshua warned them, “Only do not rebel (emph. mine) against the Lord…” (Num. 14:8).  That very rebellion, called “iniquity” by Moses in his prayer to God (Num. 14:19), cost them the promised land (Num. 13:23ff).  Instead, they earned a trip into the wilderness. Why? Hard-hearted disobedience and unbelief (Heb. 3:15, 18-19).
  • It includes courage (Num. 13:25-33).  The majority of the spies lacked the courage to act and obey.  They were content to go back to Egypt (Num. 14:2ff). They would rather face bondage alone than Canaan with God.  So, their cowardice was not only wrong but misplaced. They were afraid of the wrong things and the wrong ones. This fear led them into the wilderness (cf. Num. 14:9).

We live in daunting times, yet in them God still has given us a job to do.  If we do not do it or if we fail to do it the way He has commanded, we will wind up, like Israel, in the wilderness!  God give us the leadership, faith-filled obedience, and courage to follow Christ and thereby miss the wilderness.