The Window To The Soul

The Window To The Soul

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

The eyes are the window to the soul…sounds like something straight out of a Shakespeare sonnet. While this is a phrase that was around even before the time of Christ, many believe that it is from Matthew 6:22-23.

This saying is often a misapplication of what Jesus said while preaching the Sermon on the Mount. To understand it better we need to understand the purpose of Matthew chapters 5-7. Jesus is speaking about righteousness. I’m fact, this section in chapter 6 is one of the five areas of righteousness that Jesus talks about by way of practical application. In verses 19-24, Jesus is talking about money. Using exegetical principles we can better understand Matthew 6:22-23.

Verses 19-21 say, “”Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”” Now notice verse 24, “”No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” If verses 19-21 is talking about money, and vs. 24 is talking about money, what is he talking about in verses 22-23?

Money! He says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Jesus is talking about our view of money. The eye is the lamp of the body. Basically the way we view money effects our way of living. If we have a healthy view of money, our priorities will be in line with Gods. If we have an unhealthy eye, and view money as more important, our whole body will be full of darkness because we have chosen money over God.

The problem with the saying “the eye is the window to the soul” is that it has often offered people permission to judge the state of a person’s soul. It gives permission to judge others solely because of what they perceived a person was looking at or thinking. Biblically, we can’t know the state of a person’s soul simply by looking at their eyes. Only God has the ability to see the intentions of the heart. As humans we don’t have the power to condemn someone, only God has this power.

That being said, it is our job to be attentive to people. Our duty to one another in the church is to look out for the souls of everyone. Our view of money can either corrupt our priorities, or help us grow the kingdom.

When the Tempter Has You Out On A Limb

When the Tempter Has You Out On A Limb

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 

You can learn much by observing nature. Not only can one know God by looking at nature (Romans 1.18-20), he can learn specific lessons on various topics by looking at specific aspects of God’s creation (e.g. ants teach industry, Proverbs 6.6-8). I was watching a humorous scene outside my office window recently and was reminded of this.

 Our household, despite being full of “dog-people,” has cats for “pets.” Let’s just say that we feed the cats and provide them outdoor shelter for keeping mice, moles, and snakes away from the house. In many respects, they’re feral but become domesticated long enough to eat the kibble we put out. And, if they feel like initiating it, contact resembling petting may occur. If there is one thing I don’t like about cats, though, it is their murderous nature. Even though well-fed, cats will kill for sport. 1

 This latter observation creates a conflict for someone who has always enjoyed feeding and watching birds as well. We had to give up putting out birdseed when the cats became a part of our household. At first, the birds avoided our house. Yet, kittens learn by watching adult cats. If adult cats don’t teach kittens how to hunt, they aren’t as successful at it. As the senior hunters have passed from disease and predation or gone fully feral, being chased off by other cats, the birds have begun coming back without our encouragement. Frankly, I think a few of those “birdbrains” must be rather smart.

 One such smarty was teasing one of our cats the other day. He or she served as a good example of the tempter. As Angelo, a cat with a pattern of “angel’s wings” on his back, was slowly climbing up a budding, dogwood tree, the bird did not fly away. Instead, the avian adversary just side-stepped further to the right out on to thinner branches. The higher Angelo climbed, the thinner the branch on which the bird rested became. It seemed as if the bird knew that if Angelo tried to pounce on him or her, he would go crashing to the ground while he or she would just fly away. Angelo really thought about his situation. It took him several minutes, but he finally understood that despite his prowess, continuing towards his coveted prize would lead to his harm. Thus, to his chagrin, he slowly made his way back down the tree to the safety of the ground below.

 Herein is the lesson from nature. The tempter will lure you out from “relative safety” in order to bring your desire close, only to ensure when you pounce on it, you will end up falling flat on your face (consider Romans 6.23). We must ensure we are aware of where we are (Hebrews 2.1-4). The branches upon which we make our way may grow thin quickly, depriving us of a solid foundation, and causing us to fall.

 Of a truth, no one ever sets out to fall, he just fails to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Keep your eyes on what lies beneath your feet (1 Corinthians 10.12).

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1 Traywick, Catherine. “Killer Kitties: Study Proves They’re Not as Innocent As They Look.” Time, Time, 9 Aug. 2012, newsfeed.time.com/2012/08/09/killer-kitties-study-proves-theyre-not-as-innocent-as-they-look/.

MODESTY AND THE MEDIA SEXUALIZATION OF OUR GIRLS

MODESTY AND THE MEDIA SEXUALIZATION OF OUR GIRLS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

In 2008, M. Gigi Durham wrote a blunt book entitled: The Lolita Effect: the Media Sexualization Of Young Girls And What We Can Do About It. Durham is not at all writing from a Christian worldview, being a militant, secular feminist instead. In the book, she writes about several myths created by the media and the culture.

  • The “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” myth: Fashion magazines and media urge girls to dress in a way that’s “hot” and as such sets up the danger girls will attract harmful sexual attention.
  • The “anatomy of a sex goddess” myth: The runway model or the Barbie doll is projected as the ideal body, but both are unnatural.  They are genetic anomalies.
  • The “pretty babies” myth: “Ideal sexiness is about being young—very young it seems.”
  • The “what boys like” myth: “The ideal spectator is said to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.”

Durham is definitely on to something, even if it serves her own and different agenda. She is not alone in the secular world, worrying about the unhealthy consequences of the sexualization of our girls, even at the youngest of ages (Read more here).

Christian families, who believe and follow the Bible, already had these warnings in place. Consistently, God calls women (and girls) who profess godliness to reflect that by how they project themselves (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:3-4).  Many preachers and Bible class teachers through the years have taken great pains to try and define and describe modesty, but what we have observed above would have been indisputably immodest in most people’s eyes in the world just a generation or so ago.

Too many parents, including Christian parents, have been swayed by the world’s fashion standards.  Even girls being raised in a Christian home have at times been encouraged and allowed to dress in ways that can easily produce lust. Jesus says that those who lust after a woman are committing adultery with her in their hearts (Mat. 5:28).  Men, young and old, have a responsibility to combat lust in their hearts, but Christian love would seem to dictate that women, young and old, would make that as easy as possible for them.

Fashions that are marketed as hot, sexy and daring, that reveal the body in a sexual way, are immodest!  The world, even without the Word, sees and understands that. We dare not rationalize it!  The world sexualizes everything from Cheetos to plant food and everything in between.  God commands purity of His people, but His Word must inform our standard of purity rather than what we think is pure.  Proverbs 30:11-13 says, “There is a kind of man who curses his father and does not bless his mother.  There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, yet is not washed from his filthiness. There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.”

It’s important for us to ask, “What kind am I?”  Fashion choices and body obsession that say “if you’ve got it flaunt it” must be honestly examined and carefully avoided. God bless our homes which thoughtfully consider and decide with hearts set to honor Him.

What Are You Consuming?

What Are You Consuming?

Neal Pollard

A 17-year-old girl had a stomach ache so bad that she had to go to the hospital. She had lost her appetite, she could barely walk, and doctors for three years had simply given her pain medicine for her inexplicable abdominal issues. The girl’s family had paid over $7000 in medical tests to determine the root cause. The emergency visit, with two CT scans, finally revealed that the massive “tumor” inside her was actually hair—which had formed into a massive hairball. It was her own hair, which she had been compulsively eating for years. The next doctor visit will be for counseling to see if she suffers from trichotillomania (compulsively pulling out one’s own hair) and trichophagia (eating it) (via opposingviews.com).

Apparently, no one ever saw her doing this. It took time for the problem to grow and develop. Yet, there were symptoms that steadily worsened and became more apparent. It was a problem that required help to solve. It is a problem that will require continued efforts to overcome.

This young lady graphically illustrates a pervasive spiritual problem.  Solomon wrote, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it springs the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). Jesus illustrates this principle speaking of normal, digestible food (not hair) as not defiling a person but rather that which comes from within a person defiling that one. He says that such things as evil thoughts, sexual sins, sinful attitudes, and sins of the tongue “proceed from within and defile the man” (Mark 7:23).

No one may see us engage in it. It may take time for the symptoms to show up in our lives, but they will eventually show up in such things as our attitudes, speech, dress, and conduct. It will not go away by itself without efforts on our part to get rid of it and to stay free from it. Whether we perceive the pain of the problem or not, it is doing damage to us and we must take steps to remove it from our lives.

What are you consuming? Is it consuming you? Get help. Get rid of it. Get over it. The Great Physician stands ready to help, if you will go to Him!

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PURER YET AND PURER

PURER YET AND PURER

Neal Pollard

While this song is not one of our “toe tappers,” it is meant to be reflective. What a challenge it presents to us, too! Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote the poem during Napoleon’s heyday and Anne R. Bennett translated the lyrics a full decade before the Civil War, but the words are perhaps more timely today than they were in her place and time. While the song is about more than just holiness and purity, the idea is about aspiring to greater, better service to God. Goethe’s original poem had four verses, talking alternately about finding duty dearer, calmness in pain, peace and confidence in God, greater nearness to God, running the Christian race swifter, and the like. All of these endeavors are tied together, but I want to focus on that first phrase: “Purer yet and purer, I would be in mind.”

Do you feel like you are doing pretty well at purity of thought and heart? May I encourage you to take Goethe’s challenge to heart and make his prayer your prayer? Do you ever have feelings, however “small” or infrequent, for someone other than your mate? Do you ever look at things and people in web sites, advertisements, magazines, commercials, or an immodestly or provocatively dressed person of the opposite sex without looking away or in a way that produces lust or inappropriate thought? Do you ever find yourself harshly judging motives or drawing conclusions in your mind about people without sufficient knowledge of the person’s heart or situation? Do you ever envy another’s situation, their job, popularity, wealth, or home or marriage situation? Do you ever harbor a grudge toward someone, feeding those unhealthy feelings?

Obviously, that is just a starter list designed to create a host of similar questions. Purity of heart and mind is a daily challenge. Just because you defeated those purity foes yesterday does not give you respite from today’s battles. In fact, we know that since these challenges often arise when we least expect it, so we have got to keep the battle implements close at hand. Will you take the challenge of Goethe’s writing? Will you have as your goal absolute purity of heart? Being pure in heart will not inherently bring wealth, health, or fame, but it pays off in the highest and best way. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

The Vicious Cycle Of Pornography

The Vicious Cycle Of Pornography

Neal Pollard

Dr. Les Parrott III, in the book Helping the Struggling Adolescent, discusses the four-step cycle of pornography addiction. It is (1) preoccupation (with thoughts and a search for sexual material), (2) ritualization (the specific, immoral routine), (3) compulsive sexual behavior (the culminating act), and (4) despair (utter hopelessness or powerless about one’s behavior).  It is not just adolescents, but also teenagers, young adults, and the middle-aged who are caught in this vicious cycle.

Sin is described as a powerful, but deadly, attraction (Js. 1:13-15). It is described as an entanglement that can overcome one (2 Pet. 2:20).  Sin is destructive, though it promises life and pleasure (cf. Ecc. 9:18; 2 Pt. 2:19).  Pornography is one of the devil’s sharpest tools, slashing and cutting hearts, lives, marriages, families, and other relationships.  It destroys trust, can actually hurt natural, healthy desires, desensitizes the user, and alters how the user views other people.  Many experts say it leads some to act out on desires kindled by feeding the addiction.

The thing about Parrott’s observation is that the hunger so deeply felt by one addicted to pornography is ultimately followed by the acidic reflux of remorse.  However, the pain of remorse is forgotten the next time the hunger pangs are felt.  Each gluttonous indulgence in dark desires risks internal and external trouble like that already mentioned.

Like any other addiction, to food, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, etc., success comes in breaking the cycle.  That means changing habits, retraining thinking, removing temptation, and clinging more closely to one’s relationship with God.  He will help those who humbly and honestly come to Him for help.  Anyone who has struggled with an addiction knows that the low that follows quenching it is lower than the euphoria that precedes it or occurs during it.  Sin simply cannot fulfill.  It can deceive, but it hollows out and leaves a wake of harm and destruction.  True satisfaction is built only by channeling our hunger and thirst for that which is righteous (Mat. 5:6).  If you are struggling with this (or any) addiction, break the cycle!

The Difference Between Love And Lust

The Difference Between Love And Lust

Neal Pollard

Some years ago, Elvis Huffard discussed some fundamental differences between love and lust. In chart form, he drew them out for consideration. Here they are:

Love                                                                Lust                                                              

Flows both ways                                         Flows toward self

Is learned                                                      Known naturally

Requires attention                                    Takes little effort

An art, not feelings-based                      Act of will, you feel like it

Interested in others’ reputation          Has no such concern

“Greatest…” (1 Cor. 13:13)                     Part of sinful man to be put off (Eph. 4:22)

The world and worldly thinking are continually confused between these two entities. One has the potential to destroy lives, condemn souls, and ruin futures. The other has the ability to transform the object of it, to encourage, and to improve. One has the chafing strings of guilt, shame, fear, and corruption attached. The other is a component part of the fruit of the Spirit, against which “there is no law” (Gal. 5:23b). One is synonymous with spiritual dirtiness, darkness, and deceit. The other is akin to spiritual purity, pleasure, and peace. One caused embarrassment and repercussion for Amnon, Tamar, David, Bathsheba, the men of Sodom, Lot’s family, Noah’s neighbors, the Corinthian man and his father’s wife. The other had its highest expression at a hill called Calvary. One is the path of least resistance, but ends at Destruction Drive. The other road is often narrow, uphill, and bumpy, but the payoff is Paradise Place. One teaches self-absorption, but the other is imminently selfless though self is often rewarded as a byproduct rather than the intention of its execution. The one is base and leads one lower and lower. The other is the polar opposite of this.

So, why do the majority choose lust over love? It’s easier. It gratifies immediate, impulsive desires. It’s enticing in prospect. That it is also destructive to homes and families, churches, and societies is often obscured by those short-term attributes. It requires continued effort and conscious determination to “do” love rather than “feel” lust. The pay off is not flashy or dramatic. It is steady and subtle. Its effects are best seen in the rearview mirror after a long journey, but it is a rare and beautiful view. It is up on the mountain top in the direction of heaven rather than low and frightful in the valley of despair and regret. Choose love over lust, in view of the warning: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience” (Col. 3:5-6). Better still, choose love over lust because of the warming: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:14-19).