Peace On Earth?

Peace On Earth?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Peace on earth? Is that even possible? I mean boy look at this place. 

Could it be that peace and joy mean something else entirely? 

It’s true that for the faithful Christian peace and joy await us, but there are some who believe we can only experience these blessings in heaven. 

  1. We may feel that we are allowed only moments of Joy. 
  2. History shows us only times of peace, but never peace everywhere.

Can we have peace and joy for our life here on earth? 

Let’s look at how this is most definitely possible. Perhaps it’ll make the holiday season that much more enjoyable and hopefully every day after. 

 Real PEACE 

  1. Peace is not the lack of war— we know we’re in a spiritual battle (2 Cor. 10:3-5)
  2. We can have peace knowing that Jesus already won the ultimate war of death and gave us the victory.
  3. Peace comes from confidence in your salvation (Romans 8:31-38) 
  4. God is on our side. He’s bigger than any problem we will ever face— peace comes from knowing what many assume to be the unknown.

Real JOY 

What is joy? 

  1. It’s not happiness 
  2. Like peace, it relies on an understanding of faith and and the appreciation of victory. 
  3. It’s also a conscious awareness that God is active in our lives. James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy!” That doesn’t mean when trials tumble in you embrace them with a smile, but it’s an awareness that God is working in the world and that He has everything under control.

What’s there to be joyous about?

  1. If you’re a faithful Child of God— there’s everything to be joyous about. Your life is one of abundant joy, but you may just need to choose it.
  2. Decide how you will view future trials ahead of time. Now is a great time at the beginning of a new year. 

These are God’s gifts to you that keep on giving— all year long. 

Peace to you and may this new year be the one we all decide to be joyful about the certainty we share in a world full of uncertainty. 

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! 

 

 

Tell Me About Grace

Tell Me About Grace

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

  1. Grace brings peace (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
  2. Grace gives us favor with God (Romans 3:24).
  3. Grace is the generous attitude God has towards His people (Ephesians 1:6).
  4. Grace brings salvation to sinful man (Titus 2:11).
  5. Grace teaches us how to live (Titus 2:11-12).
  6. Grace gives us a glimpse of God’s Character (John 1:16).
  7. Grace appeared in the flesh (Titus 2:11).
  8. Grace originated from God (Eph. 2:4-5).
  9. Grace is powerful (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  10. Grace helps put Heaven in view (Acts 15:11).
  11. Grace helps us be the salt of the earth (Acts 4:33).
  12. Grace is an attribute of Christ (John 1:14).
  13. Grace is an attribute of Christians (2 Corinthians 8:7).
  14. Grace puts the word “Christ” in Christian (John 1:17).
  15. Grace is a powerful motivator (Titus 2:13-14).
  16. Grace is a gift (that is often left unopened, Ephesians 2:8).
  17. Grace gives us hope (Romans 6:14).
  18. Grace shows us the love of God (Romans 5:8).
  19. Grace brings comfort (Hebrews 4:16).
  20. Grace is given to the humble (James 4:6).
  21. Grace gives us strength ( 2 Timothy 2:1).
 
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
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. 

“Soft Civil War”

“Soft Civil War”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

It is no secret that we are politically divided in this country. Larger cities are typically progressive, while the majority of a state’s rural populations are conservative. This has even dictated what kind of news we watch! If you watch CNN, you fit in with progressives. If you watch Fox News, you are most likely conservative. Both approach reality with their own highly specific bias in order to appeal to their respective audiences. As a result of this, we have entered into what is being called a “soft civil war.” Liberals speak with extreme hatred against conservatives. Conservatives speak with great hatred against liberals. It may be a soft civil war right now, but it would not take much at this point to become a full-fledged war.

As a church, we are a kingdom. Our king is Christ and the citizens of this kingdom are Christians. Sadly, the church is not immune to soft civil wars. In Philippians 4, Paul strongly rebukes Euodia and Syntyche because their argument was destroying the church. How easily we can become heated and hateful over matters of opinion! The way we handle differing opinions on matters not pertaining to salvation determines whether we will be unified as a church or whether – like Euodia and Syntyche – we will be a force for division. The greatest tragedy of the American Civil War was that families fought on opposing sides and killed one another. As the body of Christ, let us continue to handle our differences with godliness, love, and patience.

ROMANS 5:5 AND THE LOVE OF GOD

ROMANS 5:5 AND THE LOVE OF GOD

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Romans 5.5 is a verse that I know I’ve read many times, but never paid attention to. 

It says, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” 

This whole section of Scripture is awesome, but this verse really caught my attention. How is the love of God poured into our hearts? How do we experience this? Is it a feeling or understanding? Are we given a sense of calm knowing we are saved? 

Context reveals that Jesus showed this love by dying for those who hated Him. God’s love is experienced through Jesus’ death (Romans 5.6, 8). So in that sense, we are able to access God through the sacrifice Jesus made with the Spirit who was given to us. 

However, it does seem that the love mentioned in verse five is something a little different. 

Firstly, it isn’t the only thing we have with God. We also have peace with God and grace (Romans 5.1, 2). The context of this chapter and much of the next is about the benefits of salvation. 

Secondly, the love of God seems to be pretty directly applied. The word “poured” in 5.5 is ἐκχέω (encheo), which means, “to cause to fully experience” (BDAG 312). It’s also a perfect passive verb, which means it was poured in the past and continues to be poured; God was the one doing the pouring. 

The destination of this love is our (that is, those who are saved) hearts. When we have been justified, and when we take pride in our trials because they develop endurance, proven character, and hope, God pours love into our hearts. 

Because of the multitude of “for”s and “therefore”s following this verse, I lean more towards the idea that this love is something we experience as a result of gaining rational confidence of our salvation through Christ. 

My goal in writing this article is not necessarily to explain Romans 5.5 – I do not pretend to know the answer – but to hopefully provoke thought and demonstrate the depth of scripture. I love these difficult passages, and hope that you will study them as well. 

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Chasing Calm In The Chaos Of Conflict

Chasing Calm In The Chaos Of Conflict

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Conflict stinks. It’s unpleasant, uncomfortable, and far too easy to do poorly. Conflict is a delicate game balancing a desire to achieve a certain outcome without causing unnecessary escalation.

We live in a world where evil is alive and well. No one wants evil to exist, but it does because of sin. Both good and bad people sometimes do evil things. Those people should be held accountable and justice meted. Our country has had a consistent pattern of civil unrest after an injustice. We no longer know how to have healthy conflict. 

  • Do you want to perpetuate hate? Use the actions of an evil person as an excuse to harm others, burn businesses, and contribute to civil unrest. 
  • Do you want to stifle positive change? Share polarizing rhetoric. It will flawlessly push either side more firmly into their ways. 
  • Do you want to keep a rift between entire groups of people? Play the blame game instead of holding those responsible accountable. And, when those responsible have been held accountable, continue to accuse others of complicity. 

Every single person on the planet is guilty. Every single person on the planet is hopeless without God. Every person on the planet would die lost if not for Jesus and the forgiveness He offers. Not one person is perfect. 

  • Do we want peace? Be good to all people (Galatians 6.10). 
  • Do we want to eradicate prejudice? Unite within the family of God (Galatians 3.28). God created people, not factions. 
  • Do we want to eliminate hatred? Be patient, kind, humble, not jealous, not self-centered, not easily provoked, not a grudge-holder, not someone who relishes in dysfunction, love truth, not retaliatory, and be full of hope (I Corinthians 13). 

We must face the fact that the only way to have true stability, love, acceptance, and goodness is to go through God. Only when we look to an objective standard – one that cannot change simply because man’s threshold of tolerance has – will we have peace. 

“Happy are the peacemakers, because they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5.9). 

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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

 Is Our Savior Sleeping? 

 Is Our Savior Sleeping? 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Have you ever been afraid of your imagination? At times that fear can be so convincing that you truly believe that the worst case scenario is somehow inevitable. Try and make that opening question relevant to your life. Think about a specific event or experience where you were afraid of something that never came to fruition. The grip of anxiety can be debilitating as you wait for your medical test results to come in. You agonize over the poor quality of life you might have if there is ever an unexpected economic collapse. Your hairline might rapidly recede as you stress over the outcome of the war our nation is still involved in, and do I even need to mention the new global pandemic? You’re robbed of sleep as you imagine the potential horrible outcomes that may never happen. These things may never happen because the Lord could come. They may never happen because whatever you’re afraid of— it’s simply worse in your own mind. It may never happen because God has proven Himself to be one who calms the storm instead of letting you perish.

I believe we would all benefit from recalling those occasions in our past where fear proved unnecessary and we worked ourselves up for nothing! If the fear in your life has a big appetite and it’s devouring all your time and peace, maybe it’s time to feed something else. Sitting Bull once said, “Inside of me there are two dogs. One is mean and evil and the other is good. They fight each other all the time. When asked which one wins I answer, ‘the one I feed the most.’” How vividly this illustrates a daily struggle for so many. Fear and faith will scrap with one another until we decide which one will win. Do you think our faith would emerge victorious every day if we could physically witness God’s power, but in a miraculous way? If my own eyes could witness Jesus bring the dead back from the grave, cast out a demon, or walk on stormy waters, then I would never worry again. Or would I? Seeing Jesus perform miracles never made anyone perfect. His disciples were far from perfect and they stood feet from the Savior while He did things only God could do.

On one occasion, which was hinted at earlier, Jesus calms the storm after being abruptly awakened by His terrified followers (Mark 4). There are some details about this account that will help us feed our faith when fear threatens to win the day.

First, our cries to God, even in the desperate times, are heard. The disciples exclaim, “Don’t you care that we’re about to die?” Following this fearful plea, Jesus will demonstrate a fraction of His awesome power. After all, what is calming a stormy sea to the One who spoke every drop of water into existence?

Second, excessive fear of anything in this world is a foolish mistake. God is bigger and greater than our worries.

Third, God is not asleep. It may seem like He is when we don’t feel optimistic about the future, but it’s when we recognize that He’s the only answer to our peace that He will calm our storm. 

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A Story You Don’t Hear In Vacation Bible School

A Story You Don’t Hear In Vacation Bible School

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Civil war has broken out in the kingdom after Saul’s death. David is a patriot who loves his people so he offers to treat Saul’s followers well after Judah crowns him as king. However, a man named, Abner, takes matters into his own hands and he defies God’s chosen king. He sets up Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, as their new ruler instead. Abner, who was the general of Saul’s army, along with the servants of Ish-bosheth, make their way to the pool of Gibeon. This was a large pool carved out of rock by Saul’s father. Once they arrive they sit down. On the opposite side of the pool, Joab, David’s nephew, and his servants meet them and sit as well. Behind them, two armies stand in formation, ready for war— brother against brother. Abner, perhaps to prevent the death toll that a larger battle would bring, suggests that their servants fight for them. Joab agrees, but this idea quickly leads to a slaughter. Each servant grabs the other by the head, clinching hair in a tight fist, and cuts each other down simultaneously. This short altercation doesn’t provide a victor, so both armies charge each other. It’s a battle that is fought with so much passion, but God grants David’s army with the win. I imagine the Man After God’s Own Heart did not take joy in this victory. The chaos of war has already taken so much from him, including the life of his best friend, Jonathan.

After the battle of Gibeon has ended, David’s nephew, Asahel, takes off after the fleeing Abner. Asahel was known for his speed and agility, with it being likened to that of a gazelle. This speed allowed him to pass the others that were also in pursuit and he finds himself on the heels of Abner in no time. His swiftness will bring him a swift death. While Abner is not as quick, he is older with more experience. Twice Abner asks Asahel to stop this foolish attempt to take his life, but Asahel doesn’t take this advice. This is when Abner thrusts his spear behind him and the butt end of the spear goes through Asahel’s stomach and out the other side, killing the young warrior. 

This is probably an account you never heard in Vacation Bible School, but there is so much we can learn from this event found in 2 Samuel 2:12-24. We notice how deadly pride can be. First, there is the pride of Abner in rejecting David as king, and then there’s the pride of Asahel. He was famous for being quick on his feet, but clearly slow in thought. Preachers and teachers can become well known for their ability to speak and proclaim God’s word. This fame can also be their own spiritual downfall if they begin to think more of themselves than they should. When we post scriptures, baptisms, or other good deeds on social media for our own praise and admiration, God may be the only One that sees your heart. Those are the only eyes that matter since they belong to the One that will be our final Judge.

We also learn from this story that serving a dead king is futile. As Christians we serve the King of Kings, God’s anointed son. Those standing with Him will always win. Those that chose to take matters into their own hands are fighting a losing battle.

When we read about events like this in the Bible it should also make us thankful for the day when we will enjoy a place where there is no heartache, bloodshed, or wickedness. Even David had to endure his share of trials, but now he’s with the God he modeled his heart after— and, we can assume, Jonathan. No matter what struggle we may find ourselves tangled up in, let’s place our focus on that heavenly reunion. 

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photo via Flickr