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immorality morality morality truth Uncategorized

“You Can Find Somebody To Tell You What You Want To Hear”

Neal Pollard

Someone wants to be involved in an illicit relationship, defend an unscriptural marriage (or enter into one), engage in some vice or sinful behavior “in moderation” (or otherwise), and they talk to someone who shows them from scripture why it should not be done. Perhaps they ask several people and get the same discouragement. Sometimes, the inquirer is wise enough to let that guide them away from wrongdoing. Other times, they persist in looking for someone to tell them what they want to hear. Without exception, such a searcher will eventually—and probably sooner than later—find someone to validate and endorse their desire.

Solomon wrote, “The thoughts of the righteous are just, But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful” (Prov. 12:5). His father kicked off the songbook of Israel by saying, “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked…” (Psa. 1:1a). Job speaks of how he shunned “the counsel of the wicked” (Job 21:16; 22:18). Wicked Ahaziah was rejected by God, in part, “for his mother was his counselor to do wickedly” (2 Chr. 22:3).  This characteristic of human nature, whether giving or taking wicked counsel, is timeless. But, seeking counsel from the proper sources is encouraged by Scripture (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6). How can we make sure that we are hearing what we need to hear, not just what we want to hear?

  • We must realize our personal accountability (2 Cor. 5:10). No matter what anyone else tells us, we’ll stand individually in the Judgment. Christ’s word, as Judge, is the only one that ultimately matters. What has He said?
  • We must pray for wisdom and discernment (Col. 1:9). Are we ignoring a pricked conscience, clear teaching, or red flags? Is self in control, or is the Savior’s will?
  • We must grow in knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18).  Have we studied this out yet? Are we convinced beyond a doubt? What does the Lord say?
  • We must be honest with ourselves (Psa. 15:2). We cannot deal fairly in any situation if we’re deceiving ourselves. Lying to ourselves does not change God’s truth. It simply hurts us.
  • We must train our hearts to desire what is good (cf. 2 Pet. 2:14). This can be excruciatingly hard! Proverbs 21:10 says, “The soul of the wicked desires evil.” But listen to a cleansed heart: “Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psa. 51:6).
  • We must put emphasis on the eternal rather than the temporary (2 Cor. 4:16ff). Is what we wish to pursue destructive to heavenly objectives? Are we risking an eternity in heaven for a few years of fleeting pleasure on earth? Nothing is worth sacrificing salvation!
  • We must weigh the advice of our counselors on the scales of truth (Prov. 18:17). The Berean Christians fact-checked an inspired apostle (Acts 17:6). We owe it to ourselves to compare what our advisers tell us—however much we love and respect them—with what God’s Word says. Many times they will align. If they do not, we must choose God’s Word every time!

Beware! At times, what we want to hear is right and good. Many times, it is not. As we lean on others, let us lean most heavily on “the rock” (Mat. 7:24)!

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Categories
authority immorality morality standards Uncategorized

The Eye Of The Beholder

Neal Pollard

The theme of our recently completed lectureship was, “Every Man Did What Was Right In His Own Eyes.” This seems to be the summary statement of this entire period of Bible history. It is interesting that this idea shows up more than in just the two verses where the statement appears (Judges 17:6; 21:25). Samson wanted the woman of Timnah because “she looked good to” him (Judges 14:3,7; literally, “she was right in his eyes”). In reality, she was a loose, treacherous, and idolatrous woman, but she seemed right to him. In that dark story about the Levite man, the elderly Ephraimite man, the Levite’s concubine and the Ephraimite’s virgin daughter, the old man, seeking to placate the wicked Benjamites, offered the women to them “to do with them whatever” they wished (Judges 19:24; literally, “the good in your eyes”). Obviously, what was right in these men’s eyes was reprehensible and vile. It is one of the most extreme examples of wickedness recorded in the Bible.

Elsewhere, the Bible says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 12:15a), and “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Proverbs 21:2a). We often think things seem right when they are far from it (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; 18:17).  After talking about those who mix up right and wrong and good and evil, Isaiah tells us why they do this. He warns that they “are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21).

In the world, the church, and our own lives, we are tempted to do what is right in our own eyes. We justify habits, relationships, desires, religious practices, lifestyles, and choices about which God warns in His Word by ignoring that and rationalizing, rewording, and reframing them. We use emotional arguments. We twist Scripture. In the end, when we do these things, we reject God’s authority and seek to become the standard ourselves. The book of Judges was written, in part, to show us what happens when we do it and how God feels when we do it.  The well-worn phrase goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” That may be. But right and wrong is not such as is in the eye of the beholder. That is determined by the One who possesses “the all-seeing eye” (Proverbs 15:3).

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Categories
speech tongue Uncategorized

THE POWER OF THE TONGUE

Neal Pollard

One of the leading stories in today’s news concerns a young woman, Michelle Carter, facing manslaughter charges for allegedly coercing her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, to commit suicide. He was 18 and she was 17. While at earlier points in their relationship she tried to dissuade his talk of suicide (he had attempted suicide before meeting her), by the end she was insistent and even steered him onto the subject of taking his own life. The night he succeeded in killing himself by carbon monoxide poisoning, she even urged him at one point to get back into the truck. The hundreds of text messages she wrote are disturbingly callous and malicious, and she faces 20 years in jail if convicted. Her words are at the heart of this case, and prosecutors say she is complicit in his death because of all that she said (The Washington Post online, 6/7/17, Kristine Phillips and Swati Sharma).

It is incredible to consider that this young woman used her words to so discourage and deflate another human being, to even actively push him to die. Yet, Scripture tells each of us that, spiritually, we all are exercising the power to either promote life or death through our words. Proverbs 18:21 tells us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.…”  This is why Paul urges us to give thought about the character and nature of our speech, saying, “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6). Our speech can kill in many ways:

  • Vulgar, coarse speech that can encourage others to think of the unwholesome and sinful
  • Hypercritical speech that can deflate and discourage people’s good works
  • Gossipy speech that can cause people to be divided and distanced from undeserving victims
  • Dishonest speech that can lead people astray from the truth
  • Railing, sinfully angry speech that can be self-destructive to the speaker
  • Hypocritical speech that can cause people to be turned off by Christianity

We may be prone to excuse our words as harmless when in fact they can be a matter of spiritual life and death for ourselves or someone else. Our prayer should mirror that of the psalmist, who pleads, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psa. 141:3). We possess such power! Let us harness it and use it for life, not death (cf. Jas. 3:2-12).

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Categories
correction discipline rebuke Uncategorized

Rebuke Requires Relationship

Neal Pollard

  • A child scolded by an austere stranger may get frightened or bullied, but not persuaded or “reached.” A parent, grandparent, a sibling, or good friend will be much more effective.
  • A church member reprimanded by an aloof elder with none of the skill and instincts of a shepherd will get offended, hurt, and angered, but will likely ignore the admonition. A caring, involved elder, even if what he says is difficult and narrow, will prove much more effective. Jesus makes this clear in John 10:5.
  • A preacher who isolates himself from the members, though golden-tongued and 100% right, will cause rankling and roiling rather than remorse and repentance when dealing with sensitive, “hard” subjects. Yet, a man people know cares about them will be given a hearing on even “hot button” matters delivered in loving conviction. 2 Timothy 2:24-26 makes this clear.
  • A brother or sister bringing a criticism or dispensing blunt advice, who has done nothing to establish rapport and relationship with the object of their censure, will have zero impact for good and most likely widen the distance already existent between them. Galatians 6:1-2 implies one who has worn the yoke with the one approached about the trespass.
  • A “Facebook friend” or social media connection, who does a drive-by, verbal “shooting,” devoid of real life connection and bond, is seen as an obnoxious oaf at best and more likely as an impertinent intruder. That forum is not typically going to work for effective exhortation, especially if the dressing-down comes from one who has established no meaningful link. Remember, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). That’s a real friend; not a virtual one.
  • A neighbor who has taken no time to be a friend or neighborly delivers hollow requests, suggestions, or demands. Without benefit of time and shared experience, this is received as bad manners and bad form. One who takes the time to demonstrate care will be much better heard (cf. Prov. 11:12).
  • A co-worker or schoolmate will be unpersuaded by someone who makes no time for them or takes no time to get to know them but who gets in their business is wasting their time. But, one who proves genuine concern will much more likely get a thoughtful hearing.

It’s just the way we are. We bristle at cold, heartless interference from the seemingly disinterested party. But we are open and receptive to people who take the time to get to know, understand, and care about us. The same thing said the same way will make a big difference, depending on the presence or absence of a relationship. We would do well to strive to build more and better relationships, especially if we desire to help people grow closer to Christ and go to heaven. May we first work on the connection before we attempt the correction.

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Categories
despair doctrine money Uncategorized

Deadly and Dangerous

Neal Pollard

The book of Proverbs is divided into 31 chapters and 915 verses. So, nearly 1,000, divinely-authored truisms are packed into this one book penned by Solomon and others. In Proverbs 13, the writer begins by talking about what a wise son does, then describes a prudent man, a lazy man, a righteous man, a wick man, a rich man, and a poor man (2-10). Then, in verses 11-13, an alarm is sounded against three deadly behaviors.

A warning is sounded against dishonest wealth (11). “Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.”  Financial scandals, surrounding company presidents and CEOs, often dominate current headlines. Not all swindlers, defrauders, embezzlers, and cheats are found out—in this life (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24). Cheating, lying, misrepresenting, deceiving, and otherwise acting unethically to get gain causes one to forfeit the riches of eternal life (Ti. 3:7). Be careful how you get what you get.  “…Attend to your own business and work with your hands…” (1 Th. 4:11; see Rom. 12:17).

A warning is sounded against deferred hope (12). “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.” This verse is not about choosing instant gratification over delayed gratification. It recognizes a principle played out daily. Look at an elderly person, relatively strong in body but who has “given up hope.” Such do not usually live very long. Consider a couple whose problems so overwhelm them that they surrender in some way to despair. Divorce cannot be too far off in the distance. For the human spirit to thrive, it must have hope. Hope anchors the soul (Heb. 6:19). Paul, oft-imprisoned, oft-persecuted, muses, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Cor. 15:19). What pulls the Christian through his or her troubles? It is the present help of hope. Those who throw it away often say goodbye to their faith, too!

A warning is sounded against despising the word (13). “He who despises the word will be destroyed, but he who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” Few physically take their disgust for God’s will to the point Jehoiakim did, the wicked king who cut out with a penknife the portions of scripture he hated (Jer. 36:23). Not everyone is so bold as their atheist, the satanist, or the pagan in expressing their disdain for the Bible. Yet, everyone who transgresses against it in willful, habitual, and premeditated ways, despises the word. The price for such rebellion is eternal (2 Th. 1:7-9).

Interestingly, these three verses deal with three pitfalls—of deeds, depression, and doctrine. As God’s people, we must guard against the wiles of the devil as he seeks to destroy us. Our souls are at stake. Don’t let him win. Let Christ reign!

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Categories
childrearing discipline spanking

Spanking

Neal Pollard

With the high profile case of an NFL star putting the idea of spanking in the spotlight, it is proper to examine this practice more closely.  A sweet young mother asks a couple of questions about the practice of spanking in light of Proverbs 13:24.  First, “Is Proverbs 13:24 literal, meaning we are to physically discipline our children, or is it figurative meaning we are to discipline in general?” Second, “If it is literal, does it literally mean to use an implement such as a rod, belt, etc rather than our hands to inflict the physical discipline?”  These are vital questions young parents like her have to grapple with in light of a desire to properly train and mold the heritage given them by God, but do so in a world less accepting of biblical truth in general and passages like Proverbs 13:24 specifically.  To address this, let’s break the matter into three component parts.

Spanking and society.  Due to the prevalence of physical child abuse, society has reacted to any type of corporal punishment (i.e., punishment of or relating to the physical body; spanking).  While the principle of spanking is more widely approved than we may be led to believe (a recent ABCNEWS poll found 65% of all parents approve of it, abcnews.com, and a 2013 Harris Interactive poll with a sample size twice as large found that 81% consider spanking their children sometimes appropriate, harrisinteractive.com), the politically correct wing of society so often in charge of media and education most often rail against it in any form.   There are three revised statutes in Colorado, one civil and two criminal, that address spanking in Colorado (kidjacked.com includes the laws of all 50 states).  While the statutes are eerily vague, here is what they permit:  “Parent/guardian/ person with care and supervision of minor can use reasonable and appropriate physical force, if it is reasonably necessary and appropriate to maintain or promote welfare of child” (Colorado Code Section 18-1-703).  The greater concern would be judicial interpretation or further revisions in the law that forbad corporal punishment altogether.

Spanking and scripture.  With our youngest now 16 years old, we are beyond the timeframe where spanking holds sway as a primary means of discipline.  When our boys were of that age (from toddlerhood up to the beginning of the teen years), we would resort to spanking (usually with the hand or a paddle).  This was undoubtedly the result of practices learned from our own parents’ regimen of discipline, but also our conviction (as it was our parents’) that scripture taught the necessity of this under circumstances where mere words did not remedy misbehavior.  The Bible clearly teaches it as an integral part of disciplining—Proverbs 13:24, 22:15, 23:13-14, and 29:15.  Hopefully, we will never find ourselves in a place where our civil government absolutely forbids corporal punishment of our children, but if it does we would be compelled to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).

Spanking and sensibility.  Let us get to common sense issues, though.  This is especially the “how” but also the “where” and “when.”  Consider these suggestions for effective discipline—

  1. Do not spank in anger or in an out of control manner (this reflects your own lack of self-discipline and is not likely an attempt to assert behavior modification).
  2. Exercise restraint in how hard you administer physical punishment.  The idea is to impress upon the child that their words, behavior, etc., is unacceptable.
  3. Follow up the punishment with an explanation and teaching.
  4. Avoid administering discipline in public places.  Find a private room or wait until you get home to mete out the punishment.
  5. If restraint is used, it will not matter whether the hand or another implement is used.  Overall parental demeanor will determine whether the child is “scarred” or “shaped” by it.

Obviously, personal judgment and discretion are essential.  Yet, inasmuch as the concept originates in scripture, our good sense as citizen of the society will govern us as we prayerfully attempt to raise children that please and follow God.

Categories
creation existence of God nature

“Go To The Ant, You…DARPA?”

Neal Pollard

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was formed in 1958 for technological advancements and has been responsible for so many of the gadgets and conveniences we enjoy today. They use a variety of means to “both advance knowledge through basic research and create innovative technologies that address current practical problems through applied research” (darpa.mil). SRI International, one of the agencies DARPA partners with, “has taken inspiration from the giant mound of insects, to create their own swarms of tiny worker robots that can put together mechanical assemblies and electronic circuits” (Michael Trei, dvice.com). The military has given thought to using these robots to rebuild and repair, even in the midst of battle.  Who can foresee where this technology may show up in our daily lives?

People can be incredibly brilliant and innovative.  There is no limit to our imagination and invention.  Yet, this (and many other examples) points up to God in at least two ways.  First, our intelligence points to an intelligent designer. Moses informs us that we are made in the very image of our Creator (Gen. 1:26-27).  Second, our brightest developments and designs are drawn from what God’s created world.  Solomon once admonished, “Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, Prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest” (Prov. 6:6-8).  They say imitation is the highest form of flattery.  How ironic that in a world growing more unbelieving, mankind keeps paying tribute to the wisdom and power of the One who made it all.

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Bible Bible School

“Addressing The Huge Unmet Needs Of Young Children”

 

Neal Pollard

The philosophically liberal magazine, American Prospect, included an article in the January/February, 2014, edition, by Sharon Lerner entitled, “Starting Smart.”  The article begins by asserting that there is almost universal support in the public, business, and political sectors for mandatory, universal Pre-K education.  Lerner, considering such broad favor, ardently calls for leveling the playing field wherever there is a perceived gap, and mandating public education for the nation’s youngest citizens is alleged as the way to go (62-65).  While I have multiple problems with the content of the article, my biggest disagreement is that social, economic, or other physical needs are, as the article contends, a small child’s greatest unmet needs.

The hugest unmet needs of young children in this and every culture are spiritual.  It would be interested to know what percentage of our nation’s children get even weekly Bible instruction.  For several decades, there has been a steep decline in spiritual interest in our country.  Secular interests have far eclipsed spiritual interest.  I am confident that such tragic facts, when we stand before Christ at the Judgment, will help explain the moral volcano that has spilled its damaging influence over just about every aspect of society.

While our evangelistic efforts can help us reach more “unchurched” folks and incorporate them into our Bible school program, something else has amazed me.  Growing up in the church, I have for all my life seen neglect from some members of the church in this area.  Parents did not bring their children to Bible class regularly if at all.  When those children grew up and left the home, they usually left the church, too.  I still witness that same trend, both in congregations where I have preached and in places where I travel to speak.  In essence, this robs children of the solid foundation they must have to navigate the turbulent spiritual waters of this life.  Parents, let us take Solomon’s words to heart and do all we can to properly train our children for later life and eternity (Pr. 22:6)!  God has entrusted their eternal welfare into our hands.

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Uncategorized

Like Snow In Summer

Neal Pollard

In Proverbs 26:1, Solomon writes, “Like snow in winter and like rain in time of harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.”  As you ponder the meaning of this proverb, let me share with you the aftermath of a volatile “Front Range Phenomenon.”  Denver and the surrounding areas gets more than its share of hailstorms. Nolan Doesken, state climatologist and Colorado State professor, reveals that “Colorado is one of the most hail-prone states in the U.S….destructive hail occurs most frequently on the western Great Plains” (www.cocorahs.org).  Anecdotally, a new roof sitting on my house is testimony to its destructiveness.  Last night’s storm was exceptional, even for Denver.  The hail and accompanying heavy rain and high winds caused flash fooding, but the hail itself looked more like a snowstorm.  Just southeast of the church building, there is accumulation up to six inches.  Just southwest of the church building, there are similar piles the likes of which longtime locals have never seen.  It looks for everything, in spots, like snow in summer.

It at least helps me appreciate how strange the sight of snow in summer is.  Growing up in south Georgia, snow in winter was almost as strange!  In this pithy poetry, Solomon is making a powerful point with the imagery of summer snow and harvest-time rain.  Some things do not go together.  Spiritually, a fool and honor are incongruous.  How fitted that is for contemporary circumstances.

In an age of reality TV, spawning garish characters shamelessly spilling every sordid secret and tawdry turn of events, we see foolish, dishonorable behavior.  In a time when people parade their sin rather than hide it in shame, we see foolish, dishonorable behavior.  Politicians, professional athletes, people in positions of responsibility (school teachers, civic leaders, preachers, corporate executives, et al), and others betray the public trust.  When they do, it is truly like snow in summer.

Influence is a precious commodity with which all of us are equally supplied.  What we do with it is very individual and personal.  We can be fitted for honor if we are good stewards of it, but how difficult it is to attain it when we act like a fool.  It’s like snow in the summertime.