Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

It becomes clear from reading the second letter to the Corinthians that Paul feels the need to defend himself and his actions among his readers. He feared that he had been misunderstood in his previous work among them (cf. 1:12-14). In fact, it seems as though this is the purpose of the letter (look also at 5:11-12). If you remember from the first letter, he had some pretty challenging and unpopular things to say about how they were behaving. It’s not far-fetched to think that some of them not only would not appreciate what he said, but would attack him as the messenger for saying it. Sometimes, however lovingly and kindly we share the truth, it will offend the hearer who, instead of repenting, tries to undermine the one who said it.  As we read this section, think of Paul as a man, just like his audience, who has feelings, struggles, difficulties, and temptations, too. He also needed them to know that it was because he cared so much about them that he would not “shrink from declaring to [them] anything that was profitable” (cf. Acts 20:20). What drove Paul to minister to the Corinthians? Notice several things he says in 2 Corinthians one.

THE GRACE OF GOD (12)

He would not boast in himself, whether his abilities or knowledge or influence. Those are empty and unsatisfying. His motives were pure and he was helped by a grace he wanted them to appreciate, too. When we understand our need of God’s grace, it will move us to give Him our all in response. 

THE JUDGMENT DAY OF GOD (13-14)

Paul wanted them to be able to legitimately boast together and of one another at “the day of the Lord” (cf. 5:10). The word “boast” in modern English has negative connotations–bragging, arrogance, and sinful pride. Paul wanted to have confidence in them as they faced this Day, as confident as he hoped they were of him in view of it. We should share the whole counsel of God to make sure people are ready for the most important day of all. 

THE PROMISES OF GOD (20)

He shared the positive and negative, the promises and the warnings, because he knew God meant what He said. He would not equivocate or talk out of both sides of his mouth. He was going to give them “the whole purpose of God” (cf. Acts 20:27). He knew God was the supreme promise-keeper (2 Tim. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:11-14). 

THE GLORY OF GOD (20)

Paul taught them for the glory of God. The Word is God’s. The promises are God’s. The salvation is from God. How silly for the fragile pottery to brag (4:7); the glory belongs to the Potter. Anything worthwhile we accomplish is always because of God. 

THE WORKING OF GOD (21-22)

Paul was moved by the knowledge that God is the one who establishes men (21), sets us apart (21), and gives us His Spirit (22). Knowing this, we should share Him with people so that God can accomplish His work in their lives. 

THE WITNESS OF GOD (23-24)

Wise teachers and preachers will remember that God is watching their work. He can see where no one else can–our hearts and motives. Knowing He knows me inside and out, I will check myself and do His work to bring the joy and strength of the hearers (23-24). 

THE PEOPLE OF GOD (2:1-4)

We should be moved by genuine love and concern for people. Those who share the word should share life with those who receive the word from them. Building relationships, being together in all the ups and downs of life, is what it is all about. It’s hard to imagine staying motivated to share the gospel with people we isolate ourselves from. 

Perhaps there are some preachers and teachers who just love beating up on their listeners (or readers). Motivation is individual to each one (Phil. 1:15-17). I have to believe that every faithful proclaimer wants not only to please God but also help as many people as possible go to heaven. There are so many great reasons why Christians should want to share God’s Word with others. Paul gives us a handful of them here. 

The Struggles Of The Righteous

The Struggles Of The Righteous

(Pinch Hitting For Brent, Who Is Sick)

(This is from today’s Lehman Learner)

Neal Pollard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homesick

Homesick

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

I’ve never been a homebody. I tend to get stir crazy if I’m there for more than a few hours. While this may be true here on earth, this won’t be the case in Heaven. Homesickness is a desire to not only be back in a familiar place, it’s a longing to be around the ones you love and care for. 

I long for the day when I’ll never have to be away from the ones I love again. When the body of Christ, past present and future will all be together. Forever at a home free from tears. Forever at home with likeminded brothers and sisters. Forever at home with the Father, His Son, and the Spirit. 

We will be with the Father that crucified His Son. We will be with Christ, the one who hung on a cross for us. We will be with the Spirit who gave us the Words of life. Philippians 3:20 says, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Heaven is our true home. It’s where we belong. And it’s where God wants us to be. 

I’m homesick for heaven because it is my true home. The sad reality of heaven is that not everyone will be reunited. The wives who walked alone with God. The husbands who tried so hard to save the soul of their dearest friend. The parents that pleaded to their wayward children to come home to no avail. The heartbreaking reality of eternity is that some will get to heaven and notice family members and loved ones are missing. 

I don’t want to be the rich man in Luke 16  who wanted to warn his family but it was too late. The question we must ask ourselves, will I be the one missing in heaven? If sin is controlling your life, God will judge you based off of your decisions. Don’t be the one missing in eternity. If your family is lost, don’t stop trying to save their soul. 

1 Peter–Part IX

1 Peter–Part IX

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

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

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

Everything’s about to come to an end. You have to be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of your prayers. Most importantly, don’t ever lose your love for each other. Love hides all kinds of mistakes. Take care of each other without complaining. Use your assets to help each other, since God helps us in so many ways. If your talent is speaking, speak as if you’re talking for God. If helping others is your talent, do it with limitless energy. This way every aspect of our lives gives credit to God by our dedication to Jesus. He gets all recognition and authority forever! 

Family, don’t let these hard times shock you. Don’t feel like you’ve been targeted. You are suffering like Jesus did, so let that keep your spirits up! When he comes back, we’re going to be indescribably happy! If people insult you because you love Jesus, you’re lucky! The full weight of God’s spirit and power is with you. Just make sure none of you suffer because of something you’ve done wrong, like murder, stealing, practicing morally bad things, or sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. If you suffer because of your faith, though, don’t feel bad! Instead, give all the credit to God. 

We’re about to be judged by God. Since we’re going to be judged first, how do you think it’s going to be for people who rejected God? It’s hard enough for a morally good person to be saved, so what’s going to happen to morally bad people who don’t follow God? Since we’re about to suffer, we have to trust God with our lives. He’s going to take care of us if we’re doing the right thing! 

Since we’re about to face difficulties, it’s very important that your elders lead you carefully. I’m an elder, too, and also look forward to sharing in the recognition we have coming to us. Elders, don’t lead people because you feel like you have to. Do it because it’s what God wants! Don’t lead because you want to get something financially out of it. Don’t abuse your power, but lead by example. When the ultimate leader shows up, your reward will be indestructible! 

Bodmer Papyrus of Peter’s epistles
Thank You, Dr. Jordan Peterson

Thank You, Dr. Jordan Peterson

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

According to an article written on The Public Discourse in 2018, Dr. Jordan Peterson is said to be “the most influential Biblical interpreter in the world today.” By almost all accounts, his insight and commentary on the Scriptures are held in high regard. On several occasions, Dr. Peterson has been asked about his belief in God to which he responds, “I don’t like that question.” One of his most popular YouTube series covers, “The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.” 

There have been millions of people who have spent hours watching these videos, but most of them are still wondering what Dr. Jordan believes concerning the existence of God. He says, “I act as if God exists and I am terrified that He might.” Some in his audience have taken this, and other similar comments made by him, to be deliberately vague. After one particular lecture, Dr. Peterson gave those in attendance the opportunity to ask him questions. One attendee asked Jordan to give his insight on the apostle Paul’s statement, “…and if Christ has not been raised, then all of our preaching is useless” (I Cor. 15.14). To this, Dr. Peterson put his hand to his chin and pondered this for a minute. Afterwards, he looked up and said, “I don’t have a good answer to that. I haven’t gotten to the New Testament yet, but I plan to find out what he meant.” 

This response deserves our appreciation. Jordan Peterson is a serious thinker and a great philosopher who takes his quest for truth seriously. He has acknowledged the importance of seeking out the answer to life’s most important question. He has made the realization that a personal discovery of God’s existence would carry with it life-changing implications. 

While his current beliefs do not mesh with the teachings found in His Word, he exemplifies the seriousness that we may sometimes lack. If we profess to believe in a supreme and eternal Creator who will one day judge mankind, our lives should reflect this down to our core. Our daily decisions should exhibit the devotion of our lips. 

There’s a Great Day Coming

There’s a Great Day Coming

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail 

Dale Pollard

For the past six days Russia has made significant advancements on several strategic locations in Ukraine. Every news outlet is showing photos and videos of devastation that has already occurred, and it’s predicted to escalate still. There are complicated foreign policies being discussed over topics like NATO, sanctions, and the effects on the rest of the world after Putin’s recklessness. 

Many countries are mad, some indifferent, while some cheer on their favorite country like it’s their favorite sports team. It’s chaotic and it’s concerning, but it’s not the Christian’s long-term problem. If this earth was our eternal home then I would be biting my nails and losing my hair. However, Christians all over the world should take comfort in the fact that heaven is a place where there is no war. We should remind each other that in order to make it, we are not required to be Republicans or Democrats. There are two camps in this world, but those aren’t it. The two groups are those who are lost and those who are saved. When you look at your TV or maybe out of your window and you see the death and carnage, we aren’t witnessing the death of heroes and villains. We’re watching souls walk through the door of eternity.

 Our focus is easily pulled away from the reality that is only seen through a spiritual lens but it’s the reality that matters the most. The lyrics of two hymns have been strung together in my mind this week, “There’s a Great Day coming and this world’s not my home.”

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12.19 

Judging The Right Way

Judging The Right Way

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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

Matthew 7:1-5 contains that well known verse, “Judge not that you be not judged.”

This has been a misquoted and misunderstood section of scripture because some have taken this to mean that Jesus is implying that not judging someone involves a complete acceptance of a sinful lifestyle. This obviously isn’t the case since later in this same chapter He tells us that we can judge others based on their fruits. How will we know if a “sheep” is really a “wolf” in disguise? 

We can sort the wool from the wolves by judging the actions of both. 

Some level of judgment, then, must be passed on our part, but this is not to be an action of belittlement. Jesus will masterfully use the illustration of the plank-eyed man attempting to remove a speck out of another’s eye. Notice how our Lord doesn’t reprimand the attempt to remove the speck, but that we can see the speck better when that metaphorical plank is removed from our own eye. 

Jesus is not teaching an acceptance of sin, nor is it a lack of love. Unconditional love is a requirement, but Jesus shows that it is possible to love the sinner and hate the sin. A speck can keep us from the narrow gate just as easily as a plank can– and both should be removed. 

Here are three thoughts to consider on these verses

  1. Our own planks aren’t as obvious to us as they are to others. Before becoming agitated and aggravated with a brother or sister we should keep in mind that they may not know what is so obvious to others. 
  2. Our eyes must be clear if we are ever going to help others.
  3. Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t help, but that we are required to. 
Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Three Keys To Better Bible Classes

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard  

The Tompkinsville church family is blessed to have some righteous and knowledgeable elders. In the past week and in separate Bible classes these men have each shed some insight on three different biblical texts. One elder brought a passage of scripture to the table that clarified the difference between anger and sinful anger. Another elder gave a separate take on the dispersion of humanity after the language change at Babel. After a discussion surrounding the blessing that was promised to Jacob, one of the elders broadened the scope and showed how that promise played out in Jacob’s life and in the life of the Israelites. Though the insights they offered in class were contrary to some beliefs in the brotherhood, they navigated the disagreements with grace and tact. These were not matters of salvation and in some cases were simply a matter of opinion.

The biblical text is not always clear in the English translations since there is the cultural and linguistic barriers that must be taken into consideration. Since that’s the case, there are occasionally opposing views that could both be correct. To some degree, speculation and educated guess work will attempt to fill in the gaps. Is there a hard line in the sand that indicates when anger becomes sinful? Certainly. Could God have miraculously scattered the confused people after the Tower of Babel was completed? Yes. God could have also allowed them to naturally migrate to their respective regions. Are there several applications that can be taken from Genesis 32 where we read that Jacob wrestled with God? Definitely. A church family should appreciate an eldership with a heart and mind so immersed in God’s word that they have drawn their own conclusions based on their personal study. Godly men and women express their faithfulness in Bible classes in several ways. 

  • First, they understand that the truth must be spoken in love (Ephesians 4.15). They are able to tell the difference between matters of opinion and matters of salvation. 
  • Second, they are eager to maintain a unity of spirit and a bond of peace (Ephesians 4.3-6). Godly members are not purposefully divisive or quick to start heated debates. 
  • Third, the older Christians recognize the responsibility they have to share their wisdom with the younger generation and the godly youth respect the wisdom that is given from the older generation (Titus 2.2-12). 

When the body of Christ is unified it’s also unstoppable. The church family that respects those God-given rolls that we are all assigned will find that Bible classes, Biblical discussion, and relationships are enriched and strengthened. Knowledge is both shared and received in love and humility. 

It Only Takes A Crack

It Only Takes A Crack

Friday Column: Brent’s Bent

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

“Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless” (2 Peter 3.14 NASB1995). 

Mike Schmit of Markesan, Wisconsin, grew the largest pumpkin in the United States in 2021. The pumpkin weighed in at 2,520 pounds. Yet, Schmit is not winning the $22,680 prize he could otherwise have received from California’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. (They pay $9 per pound for the winning pumpkin.) Schmit is not the winner because the pumpkin he grew developed a fingernail-sized crack from internal forces within the pumpkin. That tiny flaw was sufficient to disqualify his pumpkin from the competition.*  

In like manner, spiritually, there will be those surprised by the Judgment of God since they esteem themselves worthy of His eternal prize. They will discover too late that they had a crack in their discipleship. No, it is not a matter of lacking sinless perfection. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3.23). But there will be those who disqualify themselves by failing to be obedient to God’s Will (Matthew 7.21-23). They may do good things, even in the name of Christ. Yet, men ignore God’s Word regarding what he must do to receive eternal life.  

By what name do men call their religious bodies? What do men teach is necessary to receive salvation? How do they teach that we worship? How is the church they attend organized? Opinions and methodology vary among practitioners within generic Christendom because no one checks to see what the Bible teaches. They ignore God’s guidance about neither adding to nor taking from God’s Word (Deuteronomy 4,2; 1212.32; Proverbs 30.6; Revelation 22.18). “God didn’t say that I could not do thus-and-such.” “Surely, God is OK with this.” As Jesus said of the religious leaders of His day: “This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men” (Matthew 15.8-9 NASB1995). 

We began by sharing Peter’s admonition to be diligent in our efforts to remain spotless and blameless. The only way that is possible is through obedience. Through obedience, we walk with God enabling His Son’s blood to provide continuous cleansing from our sin (1 John 1.7). Essentially, God’s grace covers the cracks that form because of human nature. That grace makes it seem as if no cracks began. However, for the disobedient or those whose obedience is incomplete, the flaws remain. As Mike Schmit can tell you, a tiny crack is sufficient to disqualify one’s efforts. As costly as a crack is to the pumpkin grower, it is even more so to the lost soul. Therefore, we owe it to God to ensure that while we live, we do so according to His Will.   

 

*Hooper, Ben. “Tiny Crack Disqualifies Pumpkin Thought to Be Largest in U.S.” UPI, UPI, 18 Oct. 2021, www.upi.com/Odd_News/2021/10/18/heaviest-pumpkin-disqualified-Markesan-Wisconsin/8621634581685

  

Deprivation In The Land Of Plenty

Deprivation In The Land Of Plenty

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

It is likely the most willfully ignorant who would deny that we are entering a period of inflation. Various issues are causing this, such as rising fuel costs and a growing sector of society preferring unemployment to gainful employment. To illustrate this, look no further than our ports. There are dozens of ships parked off our coasts with an insufficient workforce to unload the products at the docks. COVID-19 indeed gets its share of the blame for this but, despite the pundits, cannot account for it all. Thus, we are beginning to see shortages of certain products and empty shelves in stores. For example, we will be running out of certain products again while it sits on a ship just hundreds of feet from our shore. Thus, we may well experience deprivation in the shadow of plenty. 

This deprivation happens with greater frequency within our collective spiritual lives. For example, how many households own unread Bibles? I would venture to guess that there are many. So here we have people sitting in the presence of plenty but suffer for a “lack of knowledge” (cf. Isaiah 5.13; Hosea 4.6). The Israelites ended up in captivity because of a similar choice of ignoring God’s Word. We cannot suppose that a gracious-but-just God would allow those of us living under the New Testament to skate when committing the same offense. Jesus depicted a Judgment scene in His Sermon on the Mount. Do you recall what He said to those crying, “Lord, Lord?” God only allows heavenly entry to those doing the Father’s will (Matthew 7.21-23). And where do we learn of God’s Will? Peter says that God has given us all things about life and godliness (2 Peter 1.3ff). And Paul reminds us that the Scriptures are God-breathed [inspired] (2Timothy 3.16-17). Lastly, Jesus confirms this Word as truth (John 17.17). Indeed, God has left us with a book into which even the angels desire to look (1 Peter 1.12). 

So why do people suffer spiritual want? God’s Word sits like those cargo ships, within reach of those who would profit from it. The problem lies in the lack of readers on this side of eternity’s shore. Oh, there are excuses, to be sure. For example, “I’m too busy and cannot find time to read.” Or “I get enough instruction during church services.” But their stores are increasingly empty of what the spirit most needs. Unlike our current economic situation in the United States, where reliance on imports leaves us in a lurch, there is a different reality in the spiritual realm. Since we refuse to partake of the plenty God has supplied, the devil gladly steps in and stocks our shelves for us with the sensual. Since our focus is on the immediate, we don’t notice we’ve traded our soul for that which will destroy us (Matthew 6.19-21; Luke 9.25; Luke 12.16-33). 

Get to work (2 Timothy2.15)! Grab that Bible and unload its truth into your heart. Don’t suffer deprivation in the shadow of plenty.