Handling Thorny Issues

Handling Thorny Issues

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Christians live on planet earth and aren’t immune to social issues. The vaccine is one of them. This article is NOT about vaccination specifically. I am not qualified to write about it, but this wouldn’t be an appropriate forum even if I was.

However, this issue has influenced the church in a few timeless ways: misapplying scripture, creating division, and engendering hostility.

Misapplying Scripture: Applying Romans 13 to this subject is not appropriate. Nothing about the passage sheds light on which governing authority we should follow. What if federal law contradicts state or local law? Which do we follow then? I Peter 2.13-14 does address varying levels of governing authority, but does not specify which takes precedence. Both passages demand submission to everyone who has authority over us because it’s what God wants. As it stands now, neither passage applies to this issue. We cannot use God’s word to enforce or condemn issues that have no bearing on salvation. When state or local law is in conflict with federal law (or vice versa) and the issue at hand isn’t a salvation issue, it falls under the jurisdiction of Romans 14.

Creating Division: Differences in opinion aren’t new to the church. No reasonable person will call this a salvation issue, so it does fall under the purview of Romans 14. We need to remember the commands in this passage: accept those who have different opinions (1), do not think poorly of those who disagree (3), do not judge someone who exercises preference (3), make decisions based on conviction (5), do not condemn each other over opinions (13), don’t let opinions destroy relationships (15), and don’t let your decision become a problem (16). What does this mean for us? Respect your Christian family’s decision, do not think less of them because of their decision, make the decision you feel is best for you, don’t condemn someone based on their decision, and don’t let an issue that has no bearing on our Christian lives become a source of division.

Hostility: The previous point addresses this somewhat, but sinful behavior has come out of this. Thinking less of a Christian who gets the vaccine is sinful. Thinking less of a Christian who doesn’t get the vaccine is sinful.

Nothing about this issue is new or different. Controversial opinions over military service, firearms, holiday observance, or vaccination are not handled any differently. God expects us to put these kinds of issues in their proper place: the back seat.

“We have to love each other, because love comes from God and everyone who has love belongs to God and knows him. Anyone who doesn’t love doesn’t know God, because God is love” (I Jn. 4.7-8).

“Love each other deeply with a pure heart” (I Pt. 1.22).
“You must continue to love each other” (Heb. 13.1).
“Pursue righteousness, godliness, faithfulness, love, endurance, and gentleness” (I Tim. 6.11).

Panic Buying 

Panic Buying 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Panic buying was in the news again following the Colonial Pipeline hack. People fearing a gasoline supply interruption bought up all the gasoline in many stations throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic. You might also recall the panic buying of 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic inexplicably caused people to panic-buy toilet paper and paper towels. Why do people engage in this type of behavior? In a word, it is anxiety. Dr. Shahram Heshmat provides seven reasons people choose panic buying as the balm for uncertainty. I would like for us to consider those reasons in addition to the proper, Biblical response. 

 

  1. Emotions trump logic. People know they don’t need 100 rolls of toilet paper, but driven by fears of a possible shortage, their emotions convince them they would be “safer” buying enough to fill a shopping cart while it is available. Though we equate sobriety with abstention from intoxicants, it also highlights a watchful frame of mind. Paul counseled the brethren of Thessalonica to avoid spiritual stupor by remaining vigilant and sober (1 Thessalonians 5.6). Even if I know that there might be an upcoming shortage, my trust in God should prompt me to act rationally regarding the needs of others who likewise need to secure provisions for their own. Hence, all of us can get by with our typical toilet paper purchases.

 

  1. Fearful expectation. I anticipate the worst and become fearful before having a cause. Could it be that there will be a shortage of goods? Perhaps. If my compatriots and I hastily grab all of the items from a store’s shelf, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Jesus told us to pray for our daily bread. Then, after reminding us of Providence, Jesus concluded this section of the Sermon on the Mount by saying: “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6.34 NASB1995). In other words, Jesus says to take things a day at a time. Tomorrow has its own set of concerns, and we can only deal with what is in front of us.

 

  1. & 4. The contagion of fear and herd mentality. Dr. Heshmat lists these as two of his seven reasons. The entwining of these ideas is such I will consider them together. Fear spreads like a virus. People sense fear in a group, believe there is justification for it, and follow the cues of others. God knew this about us when giving Moses instruction: “You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice” (Exodus 23.2 NASB1995). It doesn’t matter if “everyone is doing it” because we will give an accounting of ourselves before God (Romans 14.12). The incident of the Golden Calf illustrates how easy it is for us to get caught up in groupthink (cf. Exodus 32.1ff).

 

  1. & 6. Inability to deal with uncertainty and the desire to be in control. Once again, Dr. Heshmat deals with these separately, but I think they are related. Some people find it harder to deal with the unknown. Do you know someone who keeps watching the news or checking social media about a current event? Does it not seem to fuel their anxiety? Such a person likely keeps an eye open for which gas station has fuel or store has toilet paper. He convinces himself he is on top of things by swiftly grabbing up supply as it becomes available. But man is not in control due to the uncertainty of life (cf. James 4.13-15). There are things that we cannot know (Deuteronomy 29.29). We do best to trust the One Who will supply all our needs (Philippians 4.19).

 

  1. Misinformation. Dr. Heshmat explained how social media spread the misinformation about the toilet paper shortage. People in Japan thought there would be a toilet paper shortage because of what they had seen on social media. Given that we had a mad dash to buy toilet paper in the United States, it is apparent that the online rumors crossed the Pacific. The spread of false information is undoubtedly a hazard to having an interconnected world. It is interesting to note how Paul connects gossip (or being a busybody) to idleness. Paul tells Timothy that the church should not financially support young widows since their inactivity might encourage gossip (1 Timothy 5.11-15). Paul said that their undisciplined life led some in Thessalonica to act as busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3.11). In regards to such Thessalonians, Paul famously reminded that those unwilling to work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Hence, if we enough time on our hands to entertain rumors, we may well be neglecting our Christian duty elsewhere.

 

Panic buying is a peculiar problem of modern man. However, it ultimately stems from anxiety, a commodity of which Christians are to be in short supply. Not only did Jesus tell us not to worry (Matthew 6.25ff), but Paul reminds us that prayer brings incomprehensible peace (Philippians 4.6-7). Let us avail ourselves of the precious promises of our Lord and cast our anxiety upon Him (1 Peter 5.7). 

 

Works Consulted 

Heshmat, Shahram. “7 Reasons for Panic-Buying Behavior.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Mar. 2020, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/202003/7-reasons-panic-buying-behavior

 

THE CHURCH’S OPPORTUNITIES

THE CHURCH’S OPPORTUNITIES

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

 

No pandemic or problem can suppress or destroy the church’s opportunities. If it could withstand the withering attacks of persecution in its first few centuries, the body of our Lord can come through this current storm stronger than it was before. The church’s opportunities are limitless because…

  • The gospel is still powerful (Rom. 1:16). 
  • Christ is still the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). 
  • The church is still the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:9-11).
  • The mission is still in force (Mat. 28:19).
  • We still have the only answer to the world’s biggest problem (Rom. 5:6-10). 
  • We can demonstrate the most powerful attraction of discipleship (John 13:34).
  • His kingdom will never be utterly shaken or destroyed (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28). 
  • The recent crisis has awakened a sense of purpose in so many Christians.
  • Heaven is as desirable as ever and hell as unwelcome (cf. Mat. 25:31-46).
  • We know we are bigger than pettiness, division, and senseless strife (1 Cor. 1:10-13). 
  • Man still senses that life is bigger than a few years on this earth (Ecc. 12:13-14).
  • Hope still serves as an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19). 
  • The world has no viable competition to what only Jesus can give (1 John 4:4; 5:4). 
  • We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11).
  • There is no substitute for fellowship, the assembly, and corporate worship and study (Heb. 10:24).
  • We may appreciate the importance of relationships like never before (Rom. 12:3-21).

Truly, this list is much longer, but suffice it to serve as a reminder that these need not be “the worst of times.” God can make them the best of times as we move forward, eyes fixed on eternity and the wonderful work between here and there. Let’s seize those opportunities (Gal. 6:10)! 

Saturday morning’s Ladies Retreat with guest speaker, Whitney Watson, of Corsicana, TX. Over 60 were in attendance Friday and Saturday.
Crisis

Crisis

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

  • 1918 had the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed at least 675,000 people in the United States and 50,000,000 worldwide.
  • 1929 birthed the Great Depression, a multi year period of societal upheaval and economic collapse.
  • 1941 ultimately led to our involvement in a world war after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
  • 1963 saw the dramatic assassination of JFK.
  • 1986 put a damper on the excitement of space exploration with the tragedy of the Challenger explosion.
  • Violent crime rose dramatically from the 60’s to the 90’s, enough that most people no longer left their houses unlocked and were less likely to trust their fellow people.
  • 2001 marked the beginning of a global war on terror with an awful display of evil.
  • 2008 saw the Great Recession, the aftermath of which may be one of the causes of our great political division.
  • 2020 was a train wreck we need not discuss further.
 
This is by no means an exhaustive list! It covers some major events that affected Americans in the last 100 years, but much more could easily be said about the negatives of our history.
 
This is important: Immunity was attained after two years of the Spanish Flu pandemic. Lifespans increased by a few years during the Depression and led to a hearty generation of folks who helped to win the Second World War. That war, as horrible as it was, led to many incredible breakthroughs in medical and other sciences, not to mention historically unprecedented economic prosperity. The 1960s at least exposed the ungodly, ugly nature of hatred and racism, leading to some positive changes that were long overdue.
 
Even in the worst of times, good happens. But even if it doesn’t, hope is invulnerable! For a Christian, these issues are simply the result of a fallen world and they’re temporary. The end of life for us is the beginning! We have one important thing that no crisis can destroy: hope. We are absolutely certain that death will be the moment we get to live in a perfect world with our creator (see also II Peter 3.13ff; Matthew 19.28; Ephesians 1.18ff).
 
Nothing can or should dampen our faith in God, our hope for a better life, our mission to pull people out of darkness, our attitude, our love for each other, our dedication to spiritual growth, our responsibility to take care of people, our resilience in difficult times, and our critical compulsion to emulate Jesus in every possible way while we still breathe.
THE IMPERATIVES OF ROMANS 15

THE IMPERATIVES OF ROMANS 15

Monday’s Column: “Neal At The Cross”

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Neal Pollard

When examining a passage that we need to put into practice, one of the most important things we can do is to find the imperatives in that passage. For example, the Great Commission in Matthew 28 contains one imperative–“make disciples” (19).  Two participles tell us how to do that: “baptizing” and “teaching” (19-20). Another example is Ephesians 5:18-21. There is a double imperative here: “Do not be drunk with wine” (18), but “be filled with the Spirit” (18). How do you obey the command to be filled with the Spirit? There are five ways, according to Paul. You are filled with the Spirit by “speaking,” “singing,” “making melody,” “giving thanks,” and “being subject to one another.” 

In his closing appeal to the Romans, Paul is concerned about how church members are treating each other. There are apparent struggles among them over their diverse religious past. Paul pictures this as those “weak in faith” (14:1)  and those who are “strong” (15:1). The strong is also called one who has faith (14:2). Apparently, God not only expects that congregations will have both categories of Christians, but He expects us to successfully work through situations that arise out of this fact. 

Apparently, one of the most damaging ways we handle such differences is by “judging” one another (14:3-4,10,13). The way Paul uses that word here means to “pass an unfavorable judgment upon, criticize, find fault with, and condemn” (BDAG 567). The issues in their circumstance were things like eating meets offered to idols and observing special days (14:5-6). Those things seem strange, even trivial, to us today. But the church in every generation has their own petty problems to negotiate, things that are struggles of faith nonetheless (14:16-23). This clash of convictions and maturity levels must be successfully met and overcome. How?

That’s where we turn to Romans 15. Paul gives two imperatives that are at the heart of negotiating the prickly situations like those we are facing right now. They are “please your neighbor” (15:2) and “accept one another” (15:7). Those two commands can be the hardest thing to do when we disagree with how our brother (or sister) handles a matter, especially matters without clearcut instruction. To “please” is to accommodate others by meeting their needs and sacrificing self-interest. None of us wants to do that, but if you are strong (15:1) it’s what you do. It’s what Jesus did (15:3)! To “accept one another” is best defined by contrasting it with its opposite, which in this context is to “regard with contempt” (14:3). That’s reflected in a sinful attitude, dismissing, disdaining, judging, and looking down on. 

Think about the difference when one obeys or disobeys these two God-given commands. If our mentality is to “please” and “accept,” how does that affect our relationship with those drawing different conclusions in matters of judgment? If we choose to please ourselves and reject our spiritual family based on their different conclusions, where do we wind up? According to Paul, it’s not a good place (14:12,15). 

I have yet to hear of a congregation without at least “two sides” in negotiating all that’s involved in reacting to the current pandemic. Everything from masks to isolating versus assembling to rational versus irrational fear gets dragged into the conversation. It’s easy to dig our trenches deeper and draw our lines bolder. What is to govern us in these tedious, perilous times? At the heart of it all, we must obey our Lord’s instruction. “Please your neighbor for his good, to his edification” (15:2) and “accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (15:7).  Never lose sight of this! 

 

 

Because He Lives

Because He Lives

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words (Round 2)

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 

This song by the Gaithers was written in 1971 at the height of the Vietnam War. Also happening in this country was great civil unrest, school and public arena shootings, civil rights/suffrage/anti-war protests, political unrest, economic downturn, and concerns over the rising influence of communism. It was written during the Cold War when children had to do nuclear attack drills at school.
I never noticed how important the line, “this child can face uncertain days because He lives” was until seeing the year it was published. Those were definitely uncertain days.
Our time isn’t much different. I don’t have to elaborate on the stuff that makes our days uncertain – we’re very aware. We are able to handle what’s going on because He lives. No political unrest, civil disorder, threat of war, disease, or economic downturn can keep shut us down for good because He lives.
“Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He hold the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.”
Untied States

Untied States

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

My wife and I were watching an NCIS episode where terrorists attempt to use fake currency to carry out an attack on the U.S. power grid. Their trail was picked up when instead of “United States” on the bills, “Untied States,” was found. 

With the pandemic we’re facing, we have briefly enjoyed some unity not seen in seven decades. A lot of the partisan stuff has slowed, a lot of the animosity between political parties has simmered down, and people are beginning to treat each other like neighbors again. 

With the cautiously optimistic breakthroughs in our fight against this virus, we seem to be slipping back into the “Untied States.”  I think our enjoyment of the peace accompanying this unity will stick around and we’ll be as neighborly as we have been, even after quarantines have been lifted. We’re witnessing the ugliness of a government not unified and perhaps we will have gained some perspective as a result of this global trial. 

That feeling of relief, calm, peace, reset, unity, and love has to be what God feels when His church is unified. It is what we experience when we put others above ourselves and treat each other like family. 

We have a super cool opportunity once quarantines are lifted! I miss my family at Hebron like crazy – I’m not alone in missing my church family. We have a chance to use that momentum to love more, be more selfless, argue less, and encourage more. If we take these qualities and run with them, the church will grow like wildfire. Beyond that, the world will see the love we have and will want to be a part of it. 

John 13.35 

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Scene from a church potluck