1 Peter–Unconditional Love

1 Peter–Unconditional Love

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. 

I Peter – Pt III

Since we’ve decided to follow God, we have to love each other unconditionally. We have to love each other without ulterior motives. We do this because we’ve cleaned up our lives. We weren’t born into a new life through natural means (like babies). Jesus gave us new life, and he’s never going to die. You’ve read this before, “Everything alive is like grass. Its impressive qualities are like the flowers that show up in grass. Grass dies, along with its flowers, but God’s word will live forever.” This is what you were taught already. 

Since you know we’re on borrowed time, sustain yourself with God’s words. Babies instinctively crave what they need to stay alive. We must do the same with God’s words. If we decide that God’s words are good for us, we’ll be rescued when we “grow up.” Before we get to this point, we have to get rid of bad qualities. There’s no room for hate, dishonesty, hypocrisy, jealousy, or attacking character. 

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (Lawton, OK)
Good Dirt

Good Dirt

Wednesday’s Column: Third Words

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Gary Pollard

Ephesians 4 describes some spiritual gifts. Their purpose is to allow the church to function as it should. A properly functioning church spends eternity with God. A functional church is on the same page (one mind), has spiritual depth, and is workable (more on that in a bit). 

Ephesians 4.12ff is about members’ roles. What are they for? Everyone serves to equip saints. Saints are people who have pledged allegiance to God. 

We train for morally good works and become stronger through encouragement (12,16). We work toward a unified mindset, knowing Jesus, spiritual maturity, and we pursue the highest standard (Jesus) (13,14). 

We work to avoid immaturity and gullibility (14). We pursue maturity until our mindset emulates Christ’s (15). He is described (multiple times) as the standard we have to imitate. There’s no room for spiritual laziness here. 

Jesus causes growth spiritually, but only if we’ve become soil that can be worked. If our minds aren’t mature, we aren’t workable. Elders are spiritual farmers, our hearts are the soil. If we use Jesus as our standard, we are workable. If not, we’re spiritually dead. 

So, what can we do individually? Make the church strong by pursuing unity, by having spiritual depth, and by being workable. If we work on those things we will spend forever with God. 

God + Understanding = Joy

God + Understanding = Joy

 Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

I wrote those words in the back of my Bible. It has helped me on several occasions to gather my wits and remember Who I serve. 

In America one of the most common fears is the fear of death. I’m sure it must be true all over the world. Some are afraid of the unknown as humans don’t fully comprehend everything about the physical process of death. 

While Solomon reminds us at the end of Ecclesiastes that we are to fear God, It never ceases to amaze me how an understanding of God eliminates so many of our earthly fears. 

It seems that fear is really an infant quality of the new Christian. It should be. We fear God’s wrath, power, and potential punishment, but with spiritual  growth comes the absence of fear.

 While uncertainty shrouds the details of our future day by day, the Christian can take comfort in knowing our eternal home with God can be certain. 

Timothy needed the reminder that the Lord has the ability to empower us when fear begins to creep in. Paul tells him, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but one of power and love and a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7. 

I know that Timothy wasn’t the only one that needed to hear that. So many of us today, especially in these times, need to here those precious words of comfort. Whatever fears may be weighing you down today, may God’s Word give you the power, love, and sound mind that you need to face the day before you. 

“Childhood Fears”

“Childhood Fears”

TUESDAY’S COLUMN: “DALE MAIL”

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Dale Pollard

Do you remember what your childhood fears were? Maybe you never really grew out of those fears. I can remember a number of phobias I had as a child, one of which was not arachnophobia. In fact, my younger brother and I would collect spiders from the backyard and put them all in a container in our bedroom. At night we would put a flashlight behind our clear cage and watch all the spiders make their webs— occasionally fighting each other. I don’t believe our mom ever discovered this little secret. For some reason, as I grew older (more mature) I developed a fear of spiders despite having played with them often as a young kid. Fears can be funny like that. They can come from bad experiences or just somewhere in the back of our minds.

There’s a lot of fear in the world today! One of my favorite psalms in the Bible is Psalm 46. We read about what seems to be the worst case scenarios, but God still reigns over all. What if the earth gives way? What if the mountains are thrown into the sea? What if the wrong man becomes our new president? What if this virus never goes away? Even so, we have no reason to fear. God is bigger than our fears. Know we serve a Being with that much power should fill us with courage. What are you afraid of?

 
A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

 Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We would all like to improve in many ways, but many of us are also well aware of the flaws we feel are holding us back. Those shortcomings tend to get in the way, slow us down, or even prevent us from achieving the quality of life that we desire. While there is plenty of room for improvement in my life, I have found that there is a simple way to clearly envision where I am currently, and also plan for where I would like to be in the future. 

It’s true that our burdens often come from our blessings. For example, the blessing of having a car may result in the burden of expensive bills that follow a mechanical issue. 

I believe that there are five major buckets of blessings that we all must give our time and attention to. They are the five categories that if purposefully tended to, our lives can be wonderful. On the other hand, if neglected, we find ourselves in a head spinning spiral of worry and anxiety. 

These buckets are: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Mental maturity 
  3. Physical health 
  4. Relationships 
  5. Work 

If one of those buckets isn’t filled with the proper content, I’m sure you’re aware of the negative effects. If these crucial categories are filled correctly, our quality of life will only improve. 

God is the Creator of life itself which makes Him the leading authority on the subject. Consider how He can help you in each of the five areas listed above.

Faith 

By denying self, our focus is diverted away from our negative self- absorption. Putting God and others first can give you a better, fresh, and positive perspective. 

Acts 20:35

Mental maturity 

When we seek to understand our own minds and what makes us tick, we’ll be able to identify where these negative thoughts and reactions originate. 

Philippians 4:8

Physical health 

Poor health habits like fast-food diets, lack of physical exercise, and sleep deprivation only make dealing with stress all the more difficult. God designed your body to function properly when properly taken care of. 

Luke 1:37 

Relationships 

Every kind of relationship, whether marriages, friendships, family, co-workers, or the church, has one thing in common—they were made by God. Thankfully, God wrote a book to help us understand who we are to be to each individual that make up those groups. 

Romans 12:16

Work 

God built us to work— He expects us to. Some choose to be lazy and suffer. Others choose to constantly work to the neglect of the four other areas mentioned. There must be a balance, and God knows that. 

Psalm 128:2 

While there’s a lot more to be said concerning these five categories, I hope this simplified things and helped you refocus on what really matters. 

Hopefully, looking at life through His divine lens has reminded you of Who you should turn to for everything. He has given you the ultimate assurance— and He is willing to give you the ultimate assistance. 

We Must Grow Up 

We Must Grow Up 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

 

Sometimes our television plays to an “empty room.” People are present; they just are not paying attention. I suppose you could say the television just serves to offer “background noise” on those occasions. Today, an action-type show played on a broadcast network. A childhood favorite was playing. Though I might be accused of “hassling the Hoff,” I noted, as an adult, the show I enjoyed as a child was replete with terrible acting from the show’s star and the supporting cast. The only character that retained an air of sophistication was the car voiced by William Daniels. Even with KITT, though, it wasn’t that “he” had great lines, but a great accent. 

 

I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s words to the brethren of Corinth. 

 

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13.11 NASB)

 

I will explain this verse in its context before I make application of it. In the immediate context of Paul’s discourse on spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12-14, Paul was comparing their reliance on spiritual gifts such as tongue-speaking to being like a child. Love was the more excellent way (1 Corinthians 12.31ff). The spiritual gifts would pass away. Love would be what would guide the church after the miraculous age had passed. Rather than quibble over who had the best spiritual gift, they needed to grow up and be motivated by love. 

 

Within the context of the epistle, though, Paul’s words in our text serves as a reminder to Christians that a failure to mature as we should, signifies a childish mind (1 Corinthians 14.20).  Only in one’s desire to sin is such a childish disposition a positive, since it’s childlike innocence which epitomizes the ideal child of God (Matthew 18.3). Thus, we are innocent like children, but stay like adults in our thinking. 

 

This brings me back to Knight Rider. Why did the show make me cringe? I know some might accuse me of being quite capable of immaturity. Nevertheless, I am an adult now. I see things like plot holes. I can tell I am watching D-list actors. And the entire premise strains credulity. In the episode airing, Michael and KITT had gone to a South American country whose American advisor was imperiled by a coup begun during a volcanic eruption. They were responsible for safely extracting this advisor.  Naturally, they accomplished their task with little difficulty within the hour.

 

Now, let us bring it on home where it counts. How many Christians are easily swayed by the smooth words of a false teacher because he plays on those things appealing to an immature mind? How many base their convictions on how they feel instead of a “thus saith the Lord?” The Hebrews writer admonished his recipients to stop being milk-drinkers so that can tear into the solid food found in God’s Word (Hebrews 5.12-14).  That takes spending time in prayer and Bible study.

 

In closing, I remind you of what God said to Job when He finally granted the latter the audience he had requested: “Now gird up your loins like a man…” (Job 38.3; 40.7).  May we heed those words also and make those needed adjustments to become the Christian men and women God would have us be.
 

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“Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine…”

“Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine…”

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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(NOTE: Carl is pretty sick today and getting tested in Huntsville–please pray for him. I’m filling in for him on the blog today)

Neal Pollard

My good friend, the late Bill Snell, enjoyed telling a story about a preacher who was staying for several days with a brother in Christ, his wife, and their little 5-year-old son.  Every morning, the woman of the house made a hot breakfast that included the flakiest, fluffiest biscuits he had ever tasted.  Each morning, the little boy would get to the table before the preacher.  As the preacher sat down to eat, the little boy would touch the top of all the biscuits and say, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine….”  Finally, the preacher was fed up enough to get to the table just before the boy.  As the boy sat down, the preacher touched the top of all the biscuits and said, “Mine, mine, mine, mine, mine….”  The little boy smiled impishly, licked the palms of his hands, and said, as he touched the top of each biscuit, “Yours, yours, yours, yours, yours….”

Selfishness may seem childish, but it is not just a problem for children, is it?  Too often, we allow others to provoke us into childish actions.  We lower ourselves to their level, but we come out looking just like them.  In the book of Philippians are several, well-known statements warning against the follow and hurtfulness of selfishness.  Paul writes that some preached out of selfish ambition (1:17). He further says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit” (2:3). Some “seek after their own interests” (2:21).

James warned, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (3:14-17).

However cute you did or did not think that little boy was, selfishness is anything but adorable.   It is evil and chaos.  It is arrogant and dishonest.  May we ever strive toward a spiritual maturity that does away with this sort of behavior.

A Passage I’ve Neglected To Apply To Myself

A Passage I’ve Neglected To Apply To Myself

Neal Pollard

To be fair, there have been several passages I’ve neglected to apply to myself, but, given the time of year we are in, this is certainly one. Paul writes,

“One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God. For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God” (Romans 14:5-10). 

When we encounter a passage in Scripture, we are well-served to consider its practical application for daily life.

According to this passage, an individual is permitted to regard one day above another and another may choose not to do so. How might that apply to us today? What if one personally regarded December 25th over, say, August 17th (which, while it’s National Custard Day and National Thrift Shop Day, was an attempt to pick an ordinary day on the calendar)? Is that wrong? 

According to this passage, one may elect to observe a day (or not) and eat certain foods (or not) “for the Lord.” If they observe and eat, they aren’t wrong and should not be judged. Remember what Paul says elsewhere: “Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day—things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ” (Col. 2:16-17). Is application restricted just to customs under the Old Law, or could someone today act as our judge regarding some or all of these things? Even in Colossians, Paul was dealing with more than Judaisers. 

According to this passage, we must consider our actions in light of how they impact each other. As a local church and even an entire brotherhood, we don’t act in isolation because we are part of one big spiritual family. It also means each member, every weak and strong Christian, should first apply this passage to himself/herself and not just project it onto others. It is a two-way street. If one wants to personally show homage to Christ on a specific day, should he or she be respected and left alone to do that? That seems a fair application of this text.

According to this passage, we must watch judging our brother in matters like these. Further, we must avoid seeing him with contempt. That’s a strong word, meaning “to show by one’s attitude or manner of treatment that an entity has no merit or worth, disdain” (BDAG 352). Jesus reserved a scathing parable of two men praying in the temple for some because “they trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt” (Luke 18:9). Every weak and strong Christian, along with the rest of humanity, “will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” That should temper my spirit and speech, especially in matters which upon fair investigation turn out to be matters of judgment.

When I was younger, I sadly admit that I passed judgment on Christians who sent me religiously-themed Christmas cards or put up a nativity scene in their yard. Any sign that they attached religious significance to this season I attributed to their being spiritually weak and inferior. In light of Romans 14, I believe I was wrong to do this. This was a personal liberty granted to them by God through Paul in that text. If, as I presumptuously assumed, I was their “stronger brother,” then I should not act as their judge in the matter. I should set an example of patience, compassion, and acceptance.

This passage does not authorize the church to observe Christmas or to conclude, as one wise brother put it, “If I can do it, we can do it.” Scripture is filled with condemnation for the church, in its worship and teaching, setting up what God set down and setting down what He set up. Paul, in Romans 14, is talking about an individual Christian engaging in a personal observance. In a mountain of doctrinal and moral crises, let’s be sure to put this in proper perspective. More than that, let’s be careful to avoid being in either the camp which looses where God has bound or which binds where God has given liberty. And let it begin with me.

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My Daily “To-Do” List

My Daily “To-Do” List

Neal Pollard

  1. Be Productive With Your Time (Eph. 5:16).
  2. Be Pure In Your Heart (Mat. 5:8).
  3. Be Proactive In Your Relationships (Eph. 5:21-6:4).
  4. Be Peaceable With Your Provokers (Rom. 12:17-21).
  5. Be Purposeful With Your Life (Rom. 8:28).
  6. Be Praiseful With Your God (Psa. 150).
  7. Be Pleasant In Your Demeanor (Prov. 16:24).
  8. Be Prayerful In Your Decisions (Phil. 4:6).
  9. Be Patient In Your Challenges (1 Th. 5:14; Psa. 37:7).
  10. Be Positive About Your Future (Phil. 1:20-21; 4:13).
  11. Be Persistent In Your Evangelistic Pursuit (1 Cor. 9:19-22; Mat. 28:19).
  12. Be Pitying Of The Downtrodden (Prov. 19:17).
  13. Be Picky About Your Associates (1 Cor. 15:33).
  14. Be Passionate About Your Spirituality (Rom. 12:11).
  15. Be Perseverant In Your Trials (2 Th. 1:4).
  16. Be Prospective In Your Opportunities (Gal. 6:10).
  17. Be Petrified Of Falling Away From God (Heb. 6:1-6; 10:26-31).
  18. Be Powerful In Your Faith (Luke 7:9; 2 Th. 1:3).
  19. Be Persistent In Your Study (2 Tim. 2:15).
  20. Be Penitent In Your Sins And Failures (2 Cor. 7:10; Acts 3:19).
  21. Be Plentiful In Your Gratitude (1 Th. 5:18).
  22. Be Permeating In Your Influence (Mat. 13:33-34).
  23. Be Profuse In Your Generosity (3 John 5; Prov. 11:25).
  24. Be Prolific In Humility (Mat. 23:12; 1 Pet. 5:5).
  25. Be Pining For Heaven (Heb. 11:16; Phil. 1:23).

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DO WE HAVE CONFUSING MENU TERMS?

DO WE HAVE CONFUSING MENU TERMS?

Neal Pollard

Open Table, a company that facilitates reservations at better restaurants, sent a quiz today to test my familiarity with some of the more sophisticated menu terms one encounters. I made 40%, and at least a few of my right answers were lucky guesses. Truly, I’ve never heard of “okonomiyaki,” “Harissa,” “gochujang,” or “crudo.” These and others were foreign words, in the literal and culinary sense. Certainly, chefs, maitre d’s, refined diners, and the otherwise alimentary literate folks know these terms, but most of us are proud to differentiate between la fork and la spoon. We also do not like to be made to feel less than intelligent by the more informed foodie.

The more we try to be soul-conscious and truly sensitive to the visitors who attend our services, the more thoughtfully we should consider especially the terms we use and even take for granted. We’ve used them so long that maybe we assume everybody knows them.  But, these visitors may be sitting there, despite their intelligence and capability, feeling ignorant or uninitiated as we pepper them with “expediency,” “hermeneutics,” “extend the invitation,” “conversion,” “denominational,” “redemption,” and other terms that require the context of our learned church culture. Other terms, not at all hard to define, are terms that mean something specific to us but that mean something else to those without our “background”: sin, salvation, repentance, worship, born again, holy, works, grace, etc.  On many occasions, I’ve looked at some of the lyrics in our songbook and have found, especially in older songs where words have inevitably changed or fallen into disuse, we press on without defining or explaining these words to our youth, new Christians, or non-Christian attendees. “Could my zeal no respite know?”  “His garment too were in cassia dipped?” “Heavenly portals loud with hosannas ring?” Many, many more examples of such lines could be produced!

My point is not to be critical. There is no way we can define every word a visitor or newcomer may encounter in our worship services, but we do have so many who do not have our grasp of our unique terms. We have a serious obligation to them (cf. 1 Cor. 14:22-25). If we took some time to define the words of our songs, sermons, and even prayers, we would be helping those several groups who may not “get” it otherwise—teens and pre-teens, some of our young adults, a lot of our first-generation Christians, new converts, and those valuable visitors who may be termed “unchurched.” It will help the rest of us, too, to break down our rote and memorized sentences and think about what some of those “ten-cent” theological terms really mean. God desires worship that involves our heart (cf. John 4:24), and clear comprehension is a key to achieving that. May we deliberate on this when we assemble together this Lord’s Day!

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Who knows what this is?