It Only Takes A Crack

It Only Takes A Crack

Friday Column: Brent’s Bent

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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

  

The Art Of Humility (Luke 18:15-17)

The Art Of Humility (Luke 18:15-17)

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

The life of a true Christian is filled with change. We learn where we are weak and try to be better. It’s kind of like a never-ending home improvement project. There will always be areas of our spiritual walk with God that could be better. Because this is the case, many religious books, sermons and Gospel meetings are created around a theme that will help us to grow. In the Church there is a plethora of information to help us in our Christianity, but I want to focus on the basics and answer a vital question. What does it mean to be a Christian?

I want to answer this question with a passage in scripture that we may not immediately think of. We may think of 1 Timothy 1:5 or 2 Peter 1:5-7, which are great verses, but I’d like to suggest that Jesus in Luke 18:15-17 gives us the bottom line of Christianity.

It reads, “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Jesus teaches the importance of humility. You want to enter the Kingdom of God? Have an attitude of humility. He uses the example of children, and Luke even uses the Greek word for infant. These are very young kids and babies that are being brought to Jesus. So He uses this as a moment to teach a valuable lesson.

Babies show their humility in their inability to provide for themselves. Every child that is born is completely dependent on its parents and has a wholehearted trust in them to provide what they need.

What does it mean to be a Christian? It means being humble enough to admit that we need God. It means we trust in God, rather than our own “power.”

Humility plays an important role in every aspect of Christianity. It helps with showing love to others, it helps us subject ourselves to God’s Word, it helps us treat others the way we want to be treated, it helps us accept the hard topics that scripture contains, and the list goes on and on.

Do you want to be a part of the Kingdom? Make humility an everyday practice. Without this, one cannot be a Christian.

THE BEGGING MAN WHO KNEW HE NEEDED JESUS

THE BEGGING MAN WHO KNEW HE NEEDED JESUS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

One of the most intriguing people in all the gospels, to me, is the beggar sitting by the road near Jericho. Mark 10:46 tells us that the man’s name is Bartimaeus. Matthew tells us that there is another man sitting with him, and that man’s name is not given (20:30). This man was shameless in a good way, persistent despite the crowd sternly discouraging him (39). I wonder if there is a more pathetic person disclosed to us in the Bible (maybe Lazarus back in Luke 16). He is needy in at least five ways, according to Luke 18:35-43:

  • He’s physically impaired (35)–“a blind man”
  • He’s economically disadvantaged (35)–“by the road begging”
  • He’s socially outcast (39)–He’s not depicted as a respected member of society, but one to be corrected by the others
  • He’s emotionally distraught (38-41)–Begging for mercy and longing for sight
  • He’s spiritually incomplete (42)–When Jesus heals him, He tells the man, “Your faith has saved you.”

I love how the man is so stripped of his dignity, power, and resources that he boldly pleads for Jesus’ help. It may seem strange, but all of us need to get to that place if we will receive what only He can give. He wanted His mercy. When he received it, look at the response. He “began following Him, glorifying God; and when all the people saw it, they gave praise to God” (43). Don’t you want your submissive, obedient life to be a drawing card for others to see their need of God and to glorify Him? God really shows His power when He takes the lowliest and transforms them by what He does with and through them. That’s why I love this account.

 
What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Minimalism is a term often associated with the arts and humanities. It can also be a term used to describe a lack of decoration or adornment in design. One notes that minimalism features everywhere today, from webpage design to people’s desire to live in tiny houses. Despite sounding like a paradox, I suppose one can make the case that minimalism is the ultimate form of refinement. Even Leonardo DaVinci allegedly proclaimed that simplicity is the art of sophistication.   

Since minimalism appears to be beloved, why is it so difficult to share the simple Gospel to a postmodern world? What could be more straightforward than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul distilled it to three topics about Christ, even though each of those topics can fill volumes of their own accord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.1ff). Yes, the Gospel, at its core, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is contingent on symbolically reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-6). Indeed, the salvation plan is so simple that kids sing a song detailing those steps to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  

Yet, when it comes to religion, complex human emotion appears to trump Divine simplicity. Ask Naaman. When told how to cure his leprosy, Naaman balked. The prophet told him to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River to cleanse his leprosy. Naaman stormed off. 

“Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (2 Kings 5.11-12 NASB1995) 

Luckily, Naaman’s wise servants were not turned away by simplicity. They reminded their master he would do any great thing to cure his leprosy. So, why not just wash? (2 Kings 5.13) Similarly, I do not think that telling people to be immersed so that they can wash away sins and call on the Lord’s name (Acts 22.16) is a matter of complexity. It is simple. The stumbling block for those unwilling to obey is typically prejudices and fears. They think another way is better. Perhaps, this other way was taught to them by a dear, departed loved one. They do not want to “condemn” their relative by obeying the Gospel.  

However, obeying the Gospel is not an act of judgment. In rendering obedience, I am demonstrating a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). We allow God to take care of the implications and trust, like Abram, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18.25 NASB1995). No doubt, if that loved one who taught us something differently had the opportunity to be preached the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, then they would have obeyed too.  

If time permitted, I could expound upon other areas in which human emotion overly complicates the minimalism of God’s Divine plan for items such as worship. Yet, as with the virtue I am extolling, minimalism, it is best to keep this focused and concise. We should not be surprised that God would make the most critical things, like salvation, simple for us all to understand. Minimalism, experts remind us, is user-friendly and accessible. That is why we like it so. And it is also why God, the Master Designer, set up things so that the simplest among us can gain wisdom from it (Psalm 19.7).  

Indeed, what can be more minimalist than the Gospel?  

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Guilt Can Be a Positive

Guilt Can Be a Positive

 

While feeding the cats this morning, two males got into a kerfuffle. I stuck my foot between the two moggie pugilists and gently but firmly sent them to their mutual corners.  One of the participants, the victim, decided to make himself scarce for a time. Meanwhile, the instigator continued chowing down. Enter my father. My siblings can attest that my dad can cut quite the intimidating figure. It seems apparent that even cats can appreciate this. Dad sternly stated the aggressor’s name and walked towards him. The feline perpetrator may be the alpha among the cats, but he slinked away from my father. The guilty glances he returned to my father said, “Yes, I did something I should not have done.” Even so, the guilty cat lacks the intellect to grow from having been caught in his transgression. 

Despite being human, there may be many persons able to identify with our mischievous cat. They may feel guilty when confronted with their sin, but they will not allow that discomfort to prompt restoration. Eventually, they will sufficiently recover to resume their everyday life. Hence, wrongdoers may view guilt as a wholly negative emotion, a pesky nuisance. Sadly, they might find validation from a few pop psychologists. I recall one Christian telling me that her therapist assured her that she would feel better if she would discard her pesky religious convictions. Despite what such pop psychologists have said in the past, this guilt can be a positive. The apostle Paul addresses this subject in his second epistle to the Corinthians. 

“For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” (2 Corinthians 7.10 NASB1995) 

So, if you will permit me to anthropomorphize my cats further, my cat experienced worldly sorrow. This lack of godly sorrow means that the next time a similar situation confronts this male cat, he will fall back into the same behavior that earned his initial rebuke. 

Fortunately, God gave humans the propensity to experience sorrow according to His will. This sorrow can lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7.8-9). No one enjoys being like Nathan, pointing the accusatory finger at a friend (cf. 2 Samuel 12.1-15), not even Paul.  Paul said that he initially regretted his role (2 Corinthians 7.8). However, such finger-pointers realize, like Paul, that inflicting momentary guilt leads to a restoration of another’s relationship with God. The only prerequisite for imposing godly sorrow upon another is to ensure your eye is free of beams while spotting specks in your brother’s eye (Matthew 7.3-5). 

We feel guilt for a reason. Guilt helps us understand that our actions have strained our relationship with God and others. As such, guilt causes us to preserve our connective bonds. When acknowledging we have wronged someone, we make amends to them. We will not allow the rift to continue or grow. Research also suggests that you may be more trustworthy if you are more prone to feel guilt (Emamzadeh). Such guilt-prone people are more reliable because they want to avoid the guilt that comes from strained relationships entirely.  Therefore, they will avoid situations imperiling a relationship. Just as a quick aside, we should not confuse shame with guilt either. Shame causes a person to see themselves as a failure rather than seeing a mistake that they can rectify with another. We all sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3.23). So, we all have flaws. However, we can make sure that we do not purposely do anything disrupting our relationship with God and others. To that end, guilt can be a positive thing that though uncomfortable, leads to our refining in the fire. 

Work Cited 

Emamzadeh, Arash. “New Research Determines Who You Can Trust the Most.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 20 Sept. 2018, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/finding-new-home/201809/new-research-determines-who-you-can-trust-the-most

 

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
Korah’s Rebellion 

Korah’s Rebellion 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

For the next few weeks we will look at some of the lesser known Biblical accounts, and the lessons we can learn from them. 

In Numbers sixteen there is a strange and terrifying event that unfolds. It has all the ingredients of a great movie. There’s rebellion, jealousy, vengeance, and drama but it’s so much more than a story. It’s history, and it’s been divinely recorded for our learning.

Korah seems to be the individual that starts a rebellion against God’s chosen leader, Moses. He hops up on his high horse and rallies together two hundred and fifty other leaders among the people. This group, no doubt, gave him the confidence to directly confront Moses face to face. He says, “You’ve overstepped yourself, Moses! Take a look around at the people you’re trying to lead. They are just as righteous as you, and God is in their midst!” Moses falls on his face, then says, “Tomorrow, God will make His stand with who He chooses.”

When morning comes, Korah and his fellow rebels bring incense to the Tent of Meeting to offer up to God. In the meantime, an intense conversation between God and Moses takes place. God, filled with righteous anger, is about to demolish every one of them in their tents, but Moses pleads with God to give them a chance. So, a warning is given to the people, “stay away from the tents of these evil men!” No sooner had the warning been given, the earth opens up and Korah and all those belonging to him are swallowed up by the earth. Fear spreads among the people as they were afraid for their lives, and who could blame them? God then strikes down the two hundred and fifty leaders with fire— the worship offerings still in their hands. What an account! Of course there are several applicable lessons for us, but here are just three.

Mind your Maker.

God chose for His people who He wanted to be in the leadership positions. When Korah felt that he knew better, the consequences were fatal. May we never fall victim to the mindset that tells us that we know better than God. Our Lord wants us to live a certain way, and worship a certain way. When we make changes to His divine commands, just like Korah, we have overstepped our bounds.

Mind your mingling.

How did so many band together with Korah? They were all mingling in the wrong crowd. Every one of those men made a choice. They chose to grumble and complain together, then they died together. It doesn’t matter how many people think the same way we do if that thinking isn’t Patterned after God’s thinking.

Mind your motives.

What drove these men to take such a stance? They were motivated by pride, discontentment, anger, greed, and self-righteousness. All of these attitudes are toxic for the church today, and all of them still lead to destruction.

While this account is a humbling reminder of God’s reaction to disobedience, there’s more to the story. Although Korah was out of line, his descendants would prove to be more upright (Numbers 26:11). They even go on to write some of the Psalms in the years to come, including Psalm 42. Your upbringing and roots do not have to dictate your eternity. Like Korah, we all have a choice. My prayer is that as these historical events are read we learn from them and press forward, more determined to be faithful children to a perfect Father.

“As the dear thirsts for water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” 

Psalm 42:1-2

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Serving the Living God 

Serving the Living God 

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

I know I’m not old enough to say this, but when I was younger I used to lay in bed at night and try to imagine what God looked like. I would try to put a face to Him, I’d wonder what He was doing, and I would ask myself if God knew that I was thinking about Him. I still ask those same questions to this day. I’m sure that most if not all of you who are reading this believe that there is a God, and that He does see and hear all that we say. So the question I’d like to ask is, “since there is a God that has all power, why do we sometimes have difficulty following the commands that we find in the Bible?” I’d like to look at a verse that may help us realize the importance of following what God has told us to do as Christians.

Jeremiah 10:12 says, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.”

God has ALL power. There isn’t an area that He is lacking power in. He controls the weather, He created us, and, as Jeremiah 10:12 said, He made this earth that we live on. I believe that we sometimes forget just how powerful God truly is. Since God has all power, shouldn’t we be following what the Creator of everything has told us to do? In seven days He thought of everything we see around us. Think of it this way. We’ve never had an original thought. For example, I could say that I’m the only person to have ever thought about a pink Aardvark. But before I thought of pink Aardvarks, there was such thing as the color pink, and there were Aardvarks before I thought of them. So what I’m actually doing is taking two things that God created and putting them together. God has given us specific commands to do as Christians. Since God has given us rules on how to live, we shouldn’t have a problem following them. They may be difficult, but God knows how to take care of His creation. The thought of the God of the universe watching out and guiding me through life is a great comfort to me!

But what if we aren’t following what God has told us to do? There’s a saying that we all have heard that says, “Actions speak louder than words.” Our actions are a direct window to how we truly feel. If I don’t do what God has commanded, then that’s like us saying to God, “I don’t truly believe that there are consequences to my actions.” But that is a deadly place for us to be, because God IS real and there ARE consequences to our actions. God is real and the consequences of our actions are very real! In the end, it comes down to this: Not obeying what God has said is a reflection of how real we make God out to be. If we truly believe He is real, then we shouldn’t have a problem doing what He tells us to do. As Christians, we serve the one true God, and He is very real. I pray that this fact will push us to obey the commands He has given us because our God is alive and we all have an eternity with Him if we do what He tells us to do.

Looking back at when I was younger, I’ve realized that I asked the right question, but the most important part of those questions is how I answer them. Will I show through my actions that I truly believe He is alive? Or do I doubt the reality of God by not taking His commands seriously? Let’s try to always prove God is alive by following what He has told us to do!

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The Christian And Government 

The Christian And Government 

Neal Pollard

There is a passage that can be so disturbing because it is so adamantly clear. That passage is Romans 13:1-7. The early church fathers had a lot to say about this passage. They lived at a time when the government sponsored and led persecution and even execution of Christians simply for being Christians and sharing Christ with others. Nobody living in our country today has any experience with what this is like. Despite the pain and price inflicted by the Roman Empire on them, over and over the early Christians defended Paul’s words in Romans 13.

  • Basil—It is right to submit to higher authority whenever a command of God is not violated thereby
  • Ambrosiaster—Those who believe cannot play fast and loose with the law
  • Apollinaris—To disobey rulers is condemned as a mistaken way of thinking
  • Chrysostom—There should be rulers and ruled and…that things should not just lapse into anarchy is the work of God’s wisdom (Ancient Christian Commentary, Vol. VI, Oden, ed.).

Whether you long for the Obama administration or love the Trump administration, whether you love or loathe your governor, senators, and congressmen, Romans 13 applies to us today.  Whatever your feelings about law enforcement or our judicial system, Romans 13 applies to us today. No one should be more conscientious about their relationship to the Civil Government than a Christian. What does this text reveal to us about “the earthly powers that be?”

  • The government has a Divine source (1). They are “from God” and “established by God.”
  • The government is a divine statute (2). Paul calls their ruling “the ordinance of God” and he warns against opposing such.
  • The government is comprised of Divine servants (3-6). The term Paul repeatedly uses of those within such earthly institutions is “ministers of God” (“servants of God,” 6) bearing the sword, bringing wrath, and devoting themselves to maintaining divinely-ordained order on earth.
  • The government carries Divine stipulations (7). God calls for Christians to render them what is due to them, namely taxes, customs, fear, and honor.

The limit to this is if they command us (forbidding or making us) to do what would cause us to disobey God (cf. Acts 5:29). That is not the same as commanding us to do something that restricts our “rights,” “freedoms,” or “liberties.” There may be privileges we enjoy in a free nation which contribute to our comfort, happiness, and enjoyment. They may even be dubbed “unalienable rights” in our national constitution. May we never confuse earthly privilege with divine precept. The inspired Paul makes it clear that God is behind government for the reasons seen above. Peter, in a context about civil government, reminds us that we are “aliens and strangers” on this earth (1 Pet. 2:11; cf. 13ff). As we loudly, lustily sing, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through…”  “For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:15). May God give us the strength and wisdom to this end!

Maison Carrée, Temple of Rome and Augustus

Deathbed Repentance?

Deathbed Repentance?

Neal Pollard

“From the stirrups to the ground,
Mercy I asked for, mercy I found”
That is a distorted view of grace,
Which seeks God only in death’s face.

It cheapens that which cost Him much,
To use Him only as a deathbed crutch.
Unlike the seeker at his eleventh hour,
Who sincerely reaches for His saving power,

The hardened sinner who in last resort
Hedges his bets for some eternal life support.
So many never reach a deathbed sound in mind,
Or care for His will ’til their death warrant’s signed.

While God is long-suffering, wanting all to be saved,
The majority spend their lives to sin’s power enslaved
They only think heaven when earth’s living is through,
But an afterthought gesture will just not do.

Scripture says “come now,” not “wait til tomorrow,”
So many delayed to their own regret and sorrow.
Instead of relegating God to a last-ditch recourse,
Submit to Him now, you He’ll publicly endorse.

Deathbed repentance is not found in His Word,
No matter what men from their wisdom you’ve heard.
Obey from the heart what His doctrine requires,
Let His word be your truth, let all others be liars.

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