Following The Will Of God

Following The Will Of God

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

As we enter chapter 12 the point is, “what are the practical implications of 1-11?” It is the start of a five chapter section on how we can put what Paul has said into action. In the first section of the book we learn that we all have sinned, but through faith we have received justification. This gift of justification should motivate us to faithful service. 

Paul begins 12:1 by saying “I urge,” which is the powerful petition verb (parakaleo). It is always used by Paul to indicate a significant point. 

Here it represents a transition from the doctrinal discussion to the practical. It also represents a key thought, that we must present ourselves to God as a “living sacrifice.” This is in contrast to the dead sacrifices of the Old Testament (slaying of innocent animals that wasn’t enough). 

We must give to God while we are young, alive, and capable of service.

We must present ourselves to God as a living sacrifice that is Holy and acceptable. Holy means we are free from moral filth. Holy means that we are devoted to serving God. Holy means that we are an instrument of righteousness. 

Then we come to verse 2 where Paul says, “Do not be conformed.” As Christians that are wanting to build our character we cannot let the world be our standard when it comes to: 

  • Our morals (the way we act) 
  • Philosophy (the way we think)
  • In context the way we dress and the way we worship. 

Rather than being conformed to the world, we must “renew our minds.” 

  • In intellect (change the way we reason, and think about things) 
  • In emotion (Renew our state of mind, the way we respond to different circumstances)
  • In will power (have the strength to restrain our human impulses) 

Have we found ourselves living without righteous thinking? We must renew our minds. When our gym membership runs out, we renew it. When our car insurance policy period is over, we renew it. When our thinking isn’t in line with God’s, we renew our minds. 

Why do we sacrifice, and renew our minds? To prove/discern: 

  • What the good will of God is
  • What the acceptable will of God is 
  • What the perfect will of God is

And by discerning these things, we can be known as Christians who think righteously.

via Bible Study Tools
The Commands Of Scripture

The Commands Of Scripture

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

In Romans 12:9-21, Paul reveals to us what a true Christian looks like. He gives a list of actions we should always strive to accomplish. This list is totally different from the message we hear from the world. The apostle tells us that as true Christians we: 

  • Have genuine love 
  • Hate evil 
  • Hold on to what is good 
  • Love one another 
  • Outdo each other in showing honor
  • Have zeal
  • Have a Fervent spirit 
  • Serve the Lord 
  • Rejoice in hope
  • Are patient in tribulation 
  • Pray constantly
  • Contribute to the Saints 
  • Are hospitable 
  • Bless our persecutors 
  • Do not curse our enemies 
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice 
  • Weep with those who weep 
  • Live in harmony 
  • Aren’t haughty 
  • Associate with the lowly 
  • Don’t think too much of ourselves
  • Don’t repay evil with evil 
  • Do what is honorable in the sight of everyone 
  • Live peaceable 
  • Don’t take revenge 
  • Care for our enemies 
  • Don’t let evil overcome us
  • Overcome evil with good

That’s a whole lot to remember. But if we love God, we will try our best to follow these commands. Christianity is practical because it gives us the best life on this earth and the one to come. 

We know what’s truly important. We have a purpose and we know how we are to act, speak and think. We know why we’re here on earth and we know where we are going if we are faithful to God’s word. This list in Romans 12 gives us practical tips on how to handle the situations that come up in life. We have the key to a happy, meaningful, and fulfilling life. We follow the Bible because it is practical. It contains wisdom and knowledge that is found nowhere else on earth. It provides a map to salvation and it gives us the answers to life’s problems. 

The story is told of an old man who was wandering in the desert looking for water. He approached an old shack and on the porch area he found a water pump. 

Next to the water pump he saw a one gallon jug. A note on the jug said, “Use all the water to prime the pump.” The man’s instincts said to drink the water and not trust the pump. Nevertheless he poured the water into the pump and began pumping until an abundance of cool water came to the top. The Bible is like the note on that water jug. Sometimes the instructions contained in the Bible do not make sense to us, but it is always right. The commands given to us from God are practical. He knows what is best for His own creation. They help us in our decisions, and they teach us how to act and think. We can have confidence in knowing that our lives are based on the perfect commands of Scripture. 

Macaroni And Ketchup

Macaroni And Ketchup

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing passages that help me in some way. Our faith is a lifelong work-in- progress. It can be high maintenance. The Bible helps us maintain a healthy faith in any circumstance. It counsels us, convicts us, excites us, scares us, and gives us hope for a perfect future.

I once thought I was the only person who liked ketchup on macaroni. Turns out, there’re like four other people on earth who like it, too. Finding out that we aren’t alone in something is super cool!

Maybe we’ve thought, “Man, I don’t know if other Christians struggle as much as I do.” I’ve used these passages in an article before, but they’re very powerful. We aren’t alone in our struggles!

“So I have learned this rule: when I want to do good, evil is there with me. In my mind I am happy with God’s law. But I see another law working in my body. That law makes war against the law that my mind accepts.

That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and that law makes me its prisoner. What a miserable person I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death?

I thank God for his salvation through Jesus Christ our lord! So in my mind I am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful self I am a slave to the law of sin.

So now anyone who is in Christ Jesus is not judged guilty. That is because in Christ Jesus the law of the spirit that brings life made you free” (Rom 7.21-8.2).

Why Do We Sin?

Why Do We Sin?

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
Have you ever wondered why someone would take the life of another human? Or destroy another man’s property? Or kidnap a child? Or abuse their spouse? I can never wrap my head around why someone would do something so sinful. I understand why someone would cheat, lie, or gossip. I can see why someone would do something like this because it’s a temptation that I understand. But the bottom line is that a sin is a sin.
 
Cheating on a test will separate you from God just as quickly as murder. Gossip will ruin a relationship with God just as quickly as robbing a gas station. Granted there are earthly consequences that make one sin seem more serious than another, but God sees all sin  as just that, an action that goes against His Will.
 
Why do people sin? What is it about mankind that makes us want to sin? Why does the murderer take a life? Why does the liar refuse to speak the truth? There are a couple of instances I can look back on and think, “Why didn’t I just do the right thing?” When we sin we do it because we believe it to be the easier choice. If we lie we don’t have to face the hard truth. If we cheat we don’t have to put in the work of being honest. If we lust we don’t have to practice self control. Why do people sin? In most instances we sin because it’s easy, because it’s what we want to do.
 
In Romans 3:3-8, Paul is refuting the arguments of men that are claiming that we should sin more. These men reasoned that grace comes because of sin, more sin requires more grace, grace is a good thing, and, therefore, we should sin more to receive more grace. Paul responds to this claim with 3 arguments:
  1. On what basis does God inflict wrath (5)?
  2. Is He unjust for judging the world (6)?
  3. Sinners should be congratulated for being the object of God’s Grace (7).
If more sin was a good thing, then why not just preach “do more evil” so that “good may come”?
 
Since we can’t argue that more sin equals more grace, why do people continue to sin? The answer is simple. Romans 3:18 says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” The underlying reason that people sin stems from a lack of fear in God. We live in a fearless world, and it shows. Fearing God is understanding Who He is and what He can do. Those who fear God try to avoid the things that make God angry. If we lose our fear of the Almighty we open the door to a sinful lifestyle.
 
The world says being fearless is a good thing, but we must never lose our fear of God.
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. 

pouring-water-on-glass-bowl

The Religion Of Resolutions

The Religion Of Resolutions

Neal Pollard

Have you ever wondered about the origin of New Year’s resolutions? I have. If they are to be trusted, the folks at the History Channel denote the Babylonians, nearly 4,000 years ago, as the founder of such culture-wide determinations. It was as part of a 12-day religious festival known as Akitu. Later, at the prompting of none other than Julius Caesar, the Romans, again as a nod to a god—Janus, the two-faced god who looked backward and forward—observed the advent of a new year with the intent of improving areas of their lives in need of such. Sarah Pruitt, author of the piece, claims that Christians, since early times, have approached the new year to rededicate themselves to Christ. Pruitt seems to be indicting so many today who observe this holiday in a purely secular fashion, and wonders if such humanistic emphasis is why so many resolutions fail (source).

It is noteworthy that the history of making resolutions is so closely tied to religious devotion. Perhaps this is because we, as human beings, recognize our innate inadequacy. Paul, feeling it necessary to defend himself against unnamed critics of his work, wrote, “Such confidence we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant…” (2 Cor. 3:4-6a). Paul, so accomplished as a Christian, preacher, leader, mentor, missionary, and more, was always striving to do more for Jesus. He was not trying to earn God’s love and approval. Whether looking back at his successes or failures, Paul, in his love for his Lord, wanted to serve Him more effectively. He told Philippi that he pressed on (Phil. 3:12), “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (Phil. 3:13). He advised the conscientious Christian to follow his example (Phil. 3:15-16).

Christianity is not a religion of annual intention. It is the religious of daily determination (Luke 9:23). January 1 is an ideal time to reflect, review, and resolve, but is far from the only time.  In a significant sense, each new day for us involves a resolve within ourselves to deny self and dedicate to the Savior. As I have done every year of my adult life, I will again set out objectives and goals, physically, financially, and familial. Yet, the most important will involve my faith. As always, these will need review, not just in January, but throughout the year. In my prayers today, I prayed for every Christian who resolves to conquer a sin problem, reach a lost soul, be more active in their local congregation, and any other noble aim for the Master. If you make some such specific resolution and would honor me with the privilege of partnering with you in prayer about it, please email me (mrnealpollard@gmail.com) and let me know. Then, let me know how it goes and especially tell me about your success. May God bless each of us with the resolve to be more faithful in our relationship with Him.

o-new-years-resolutions-facebook

Who Can Be Against Us?

Who Can Be Against Us?

Neal Pollard

Have you ever had someone that seemed to have it out for you? Not only did they not like you, but they actively undermined you. They may have slandered you or even lied about you. You may have even felt that they were trying to ruin your life!

Have you ever had something that seemed to overwhelm and overshadow you? It could be something from your past, present, or future, worry, guilt, regret, fear, trouble, pain, problem, or other stress. Maybe it was something that was nearly impossible to shake or something of which you were constantly reminded.

In a beautiful context writing about assurance, Paul asks, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). That is an eminently fair question to ask. Here are some potential foes that could undo us: tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, sword, death, life, angels, principalities, powers, the present, the future, height, depth, or any other created thing (35, 38-39). Examine that list closely. Doesn’t it include just about every potential threat and trial? Do we believe the assertion of Romans 8:31, this rhetorical question firmly implying that God is bigger and stronger than any potential problem or person?

When it comes to our righteous plans, isn’t this same principle vital to our process? What can we do and be as a church? The only limitation is that which goes against God’s will or that which can dominate God’s will. We must give great care to the first part, but we need not worry for a second about the second part. There will be factors that strain or intimidate. There will be reverses and failures. But, if we will persist and persevere, what can defeat us?

How exciting, in our personal and congregational lives, to serve a God more powerful than any foe or fear! We can succeed by His help and to His glory, come what may! Let us trust this timeless truth and live our lives as though we believe it!

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Five Facts About A Faithless People

Five Facts About A Faithless People

Neal Pollard

The percentage of Americans who identify as atheists doubled from 2007 to 2014 (Michael Lipka, Pew Research Center). But that hardly tells the whole story. Our culture is drowning in a political correctness that stigmatizes Christian Values and that makes nearly any public stand or statement regarding what Scripture says about such things as homosexuality, objective truth, the sanctity of life, and creation a point of fierce contention and object of greatest scorn. A moral erosion and slippery slope has been in motion for several generations that has brought us to our current position. The Bible foresaw such decline as comes when a people turn their backs on God (cf. Prov. 14:34). In discussing the universal problem of sin, Paul points out five facts about a faithless people (Rom. 1:18-32):

  • Faithlessness ignites God’s fury (18). Wrathfulness is as much a part of God’s nature as graciousness. In fact, we appreciate grace so much because God gives it when we deserve His wrath. Paul says the object of His wrath is all ungodliness and unrighteousness. The unrighteous behavior Paul specifies is “men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” They don’t live the truth and they don’t want the truth to be told. Paul ends the section by pointing these out as those who practice ungodliness and heartily approve of those who do the same (32). It is clear that those who remain faithless are “sinners in the hands of an angry God.”
  • Faithlessness ignores the facts (19-20). Paul says that faithlessness is not due to an absence of facts, but a willful ignorance of them. He says that even the faithless can see God as they look inside themselves and outside themselves at the creation. It takes a deliberate effort to arrive at a position of unbelief. So much has to be continuously ignored.
  • Faithlessness includes futility (21). Faithlessness is built upon a flimsy foundation. It’s the slab of speculation. The faithless spend their lives running from the facts in favor of a worldview that makes no sense, gives no purpose, and instills no hope.
  • Faithlessness involves folly (22-23). It’s not just empty, it’s foolish. Paul’s words here are akin to David’s words in Psalm 14:1 and 53:1, that “the fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Paul describes intelligent people who have made the most fundamentally foolish decision of all. They exchange faith in an infallible God for faith in fallible man.
  • Faithlessness instigates a fall (24-32). Paul pictures how a person arrives at wholesale immorality. One must first turn from God and run the other way. Then, God lets them go to find out what lies at the end of that broad way. He gives them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity (24), He gives them over to degrading passions (26), and He gives them over to a depraved mind (28). The lusts led to the wrong object of worship and submission. The passions led to unnatural desires. The depraved minds led to every imaginable behavior, a long list of actions that have in common the fact that they lead to spiritual death. It encompasses both the perpetrators and those who validate them and tell them it’s OK to do them.

Why does Paul mention these faithless ones? It is proof of divine inspiration, because although this was written 2000 years ago it perfectly describes the current culture. But, there is a more important reason for Paul to write this. This horrible condition has a remedy. The theme of Romans is contained in the four verses prior to this section. The gospel has the power to save us from this. The solution is faith. Faith saves (1:16) and it gives life (1:17). The world is being swallowed by spiritual darkness, but God’s light is brighter. We who have faith have the light. We must share it. When we do, we help people have the most important possible commodity: faith!

birth_of_all_hope_by_mr_morph-d62i5un

“To Protect And To Serve”

“To Protect And To Serve”

Neal Pollard

This now famous motto came into the public consciousness as part of a contest run by the Los Angeles Police Department’s internal magazine, BEAT, in 1955. Officer Joseph Dorobek submitted the winning entry with “to protect and to serve.” Nearly 60 years later, it continues to be seen on the side of the department’s patrol cars and serves to “embody the spirit, dedication, and professionalism” of the LAPD’s officers (via joinlapd.com).

With so much animus and distrust of law enforcement in some circles right now, it can be easy to forget their vital role of keeping peace and enforcing the law.  Without them, anarchy and violence would reign, with no one to restrain the lawless from violating and harming those incapable of defending themselves.  While there are unethical, lawless individuals in every profession, many who hear reports against law enforcement never stop to ask whether there is ever bias on the part of the reporters.  Perhaps it is a bias against law, authority, or the perceived power delegated to those wielding a badge.  It is good to remember that God has appointed the governing authorities of each locale (cf. Rom. 13:1ff).

God does not have an official position in His Kingdom for watchdogs or police officers to police the actions of others.  He made us creatures of choice and He allows us to choose good or evil.  While occasionally there are preachers and other members who are self-appointed to such a position, the concept is foreign to Scripture.  However, He did organize the church with elders who protect (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2) and deacons who serve (1 Tim. 3:10,13).  In fact, all members are to be servants of Christ (Gal. 5:13).  Preachers are to preach the word, and when they declare the whole counsel in love (Acts 20:27; Eph. 4:15), they will sometimes convict the hearts of the hearers.  Particularly elders, who are commissioned to protect and serve the flock, deserve our respect and esteem (1 Th. 5:12-13).  Especially is that vital in an age that disdains authority.

It was an honor for me to serve as a reserve police officer in Livingston, Alabama, for a couple of years in the early 1990s.  I was able to see the dedication and sense of honor held by these extraordinary men and women. Let us honor those public servants of God (Rom. 13:6) and those spiritual servants of God (1 Th. 5:13)!

The Origin Of Scruples

The Origin Of Scruples

Neal Pollard

Wes Autrey gave me an incredibly cool book by Charles Earle Funk.  The title of it is, “Thereby Hangs A Tale.” The book divulges the origin of words in modern usage, a study known as etymology. The fascinating explanations of many of our words is virtually endless, but the origin of our word “scruples” is particularly interesting.  Apparently, the Romans were prone to get sharp pebbles in their sandals.  They called those “pointed bits of stone” scrupulus. Funk says, “It is easy to see how the uneasiness one would feel from a pebble in the sandal gave rise to the figurative use of scrupulus for an uneasiness of the mind” (254).  In time, scrupulous has come to mean “extreme caution and carefulness.”  Scruples are “a feeling of doubt or hesitation with regard to the morality or propriety of a course of action.”

There is a connection between scruples and conscience.  It is the conscience that informs our scruples.  Our sense of right and wrong determines our caution, care, and even hesitation when we are in a given situation.  How sharp our conscience is effects how scrupulous or unscrupulous we are.

The Bible does not use the word “scruples,” but the word “conscience” is mentioned 27 times in the New Testament alone. Some people’s conscience forbids them to do what may be acceptable (cf. 1 Cor. 8:7), but others’ consciences allow them to do what is forbidden (Acts 23:1; 1 Tim. 4:2). Thus, the goal is for us to properly train and adequately sharpen the conscience.

What helps in this process is growing close to God by communing with Him in Scripture, application of Scripture, and prayer.  As we walk the narrow way, we want to feel the pain of those “pebbles” that may keep us from finishing the journey.  Is this not the idea conveyed by the writer of Hebrews, who says, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).  That rock in the shoe may be some ethical or moral practice that ultimately takes us off course.  Let us be careful to gauge the morality or propriety of any course of action, making sure it is in harmony with the goal of eternal life and not more likely to ultimately lead us away from God.