“Get Up!”

“Get Up!”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The phrase “got up” is found 41 times in the Bible. It is used four times in Matthew 9, of four different people and situations. I want us to make some application of that.

A struggling man got up and went home. This is the man brought to Christ by his four friends. Jesus began the encounter, “Take courage, your sins are forgiven” (2). This upset the Pharisees and Jesus proved His power by healing the man of his paralysis. He sends him on his way, saying, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home” (6). That’s exactly what he did (7). This amazed everyone who saw it. But what about this man? He never says a word. All we know is he obeyed Jesus. He got up and went home. When we are healed by Jesus, part of our responsibility is to take that to our homes. That may not seem like much, but it’s a great opportunity. We should go home and show our family how much this week has positively effected you. Be a blessing to your home!

A sinful man got up and followed Jesus. This is the narrator of the gospel, Matthew. He was a tax collector and Jesus called him to follow. Tax collectors were lumped in with other sinners (10-11), but they receive dishonorable mention. Matthew 9:9 says, “And he got up and followed Him.” Following Jesus changed him pretty quickly. All of us when we come to Jesus come as sinners (Ecc. 7:20; Rom. 3:23; 1 Jn. 5:19). But following Jesus will bring change (Mat. 16:24). When our sins are washed away, we are committing to follow Him and spend our lives growing closer to Christ.

A spiritual man got up and served. The third person to “get up” in this chapter is Jesus. Jairus’ daughter has died and he tells Jesus he believes He can raise her from the dead. What great faith! What does Jesus do? “He got up and began to follow Him, and so did His disciples” (19). Two things are noteworthy. First, the Creator of the universe was humble. He simply gets up and goes to serve. For good measure, He heals a sick lady on the way. Jesus demonstrated greatness by serving (Mat. 20:25-28; John 13:12-17). Second, servants influence others. The disciples got up too. Godly service is contagious! Following Jesus will lead us to serve. We must “get up” and take that mindset with us every day (Phil. 2:5ff)!

A sleeping girl got up and lived. Jairus’ daughter had died, but Jesus tells the mourners and the crowd, “Leave, for the girl has not died, but is asleep” (24). They thought Jesus was joking, but He showed that He could raise the dead as though she was just sleeping. But the girl “got up” (25). And the news spread throughout the land (26). It is so easy to fall asleep spiritually. Our fire can go out and our passion for Christ can leave us. Sometimes, God tells us, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14). We may need to wake up, get up and live the example of Christ like never before. 

Maybe, we see ourselves in one or more of these individuals and their situations in Matthew nine. All of us must get up and go home, get up and follow Jesus, get up and serve, and get up and live. That is the essence of revival! 

When Should You Go To The Doctor?

When Should You Go To The Doctor?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

I was chit-chatting with a friend from college about his latest work assignment, which took him to the Mississippi delta. He mentioned he had been by the birthplace of Kermit the Frog in Leland, Mississippi. Of course, I know Leland well since my mother grew up there. But sadly, I’ve not had a reason to visit Leland since my maternal grandfather passed in 2004. And while Deer Creek, which flows through Leland, is picturesque, I would have never thought it to be the place Jim Henson would choose to serve as the place of Kermit’s nativity. Yet, Jim Henson had been born in nearby Greenville, Mississippi, and spent his early childhood in Leland due to his father’s career as an agronomist for the Department of Agriculture.1  

Can you believe it has been about 32 years since Henson left this life? Do you realize that there are potentially two generations familiar with Henson’s creations but are unaware of their creator? It boggles the mind of this “middle-aged” man. The older I become, the more I appreciate the Latin inscription on some clocks: Tempus fugit (i.e., “time flies”). But as I ponder the legacy of Jim Henson, the more I am struck by its tragedy. There was no reason that Henson had to die. The illness that took him was easily treatable had it been caught in time. There are certain complicating factors, to be sure. Henson’s parents reared him in the Christian Science faith.2 If you were unaware, Christian Scientists believe they should treat illness with prayer before medicine. In all fairness to Henson, he had stopped being an active practitioner of Christian Science in the 1970s,3 but one wonders if certain aspects of that upbringing did not stick with him. His friends say that he likewise did not like to think he was bothering others. So, complaining about his health or going to the doctor were things away from which he shied.  

By the time Henson went to the ER, he had already been coughing up blood and had difficulty breathing. His inability to breathe landed him in the ICU and on a ventilator. X-rays showed lung abscesses, and the doctors gave him multiple antibiotics. The antibiotics were working, but Henson was still going into shock, his organs shutting down. Within twenty-four hours of his admittance to the hospital, Henson died from streptococcal toxic shock syndrome caused by Streptococcus pyogenes. The doctor announcing Henson’s death suggested that the medicine would have saved Henson had he come in a few hours earlier.4 Nevertheless, it was a shocking reminder to Americans about the lethality of pneumonia. 

It is easy to armchair quarterback Henson’s decision since we possess hindsight. But when would you have gone to see the doctor? Would you have gone the moment you felt something was “off?” Maybe you would go after having a sore throat for several days? Most people would not have waited until they were coughing up blood. Relatively speaking, disorders of the body are easier to spot. Spiritual sickness, not so much. The presence of such is not to suggest there are no symptoms. There is a lie told here or skipping an assembly of the church there. But things become cumulative and indicate spiritual sickness. Paul said of the Corinthians that their transgressions invalidated their observance of the Lord’s Supper and revealed them spiritually weak, sick, and even asleep (dead?—1 Corinthians 11.30). Elsewhere, the Hebrews writer had to caution Christians of the ease with which they can drift away (Hebrews 2.1). And the problem with spiritual sickness is that a calloused heart doesn’t realize it is imperiled (Hebrews 3.12-19).  

Our time to seek the Lord is limited. Thus, God cautioned His covenant people of old to seek Him while He was available for them to find (Isaiah 55.6-7). And Jesus invites us to enter the New Covenant today (Matthew 11.28-30). We have no more time promised than did they. James reminds us that our physical life is like rapidly dispersed water vapor (James 4.14), and the Hebrews writer says judgment follows death (Hebrews 9.27). So, when should you go to the doctor? I’d suggest that time is the moment you realize you are sick. But when should you go to the Great Physician? “Behold, now is the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation ’” (2 Corinthians 6.2 NASB1995). Don’t lose your soul because of something you could have prevented! 

Sources Cited: 

1 Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia.“Jim Henson”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 12 May. 2022, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jim-Henson

2 Schindehette, Susan. “Legacy of a Gentle Genius.” People, 18 June 1990. https://muppetcentral.com/articles/tributes/henson/hensonarticle5.shtml 

3 Evans, W. R. “Henson Rumor Is Groundless.” Toledo Blade, 1 July 1990, p. E4. https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=7ElPAAAAIBAJ&pg=4502,372385

4 Schreuder , Cindy. “Pneumonia Quickly Spread in Henson.” Orlando Sentinel, Orlando Sentinel, 27 July 2021, www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1990-05-18-9005180413-story.html

1 Peter–Part IX

1 Peter–Part IX

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Everything’s about to come to an end. You have to be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of your prayers. Most importantly, don’t ever lose your love for each other. Love hides all kinds of mistakes. Take care of each other without complaining. Use your assets to help each other, since God helps us in so many ways. If your talent is speaking, speak as if you’re talking for God. If helping others is your talent, do it with limitless energy. This way every aspect of our lives gives credit to God by our dedication to Jesus. He gets all recognition and authority forever! 

Family, don’t let these hard times shock you. Don’t feel like you’ve been targeted. You are suffering like Jesus did, so let that keep your spirits up! When he comes back, we’re going to be indescribably happy! If people insult you because you love Jesus, you’re lucky! The full weight of God’s spirit and power is with you. Just make sure none of you suffer because of something you’ve done wrong, like murder, stealing, practicing morally bad things, or sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. If you suffer because of your faith, though, don’t feel bad! Instead, give all the credit to God. 

We’re about to be judged by God. Since we’re going to be judged first, how do you think it’s going to be for people who rejected God? It’s hard enough for a morally good person to be saved, so what’s going to happen to morally bad people who don’t follow God? Since we’re about to suffer, we have to trust God with our lives. He’s going to take care of us if we’re doing the right thing! 

Since we’re about to face difficulties, it’s very important that your elders lead you carefully. I’m an elder, too, and also look forward to sharing in the recognition we have coming to us. Elders, don’t lead people because you feel like you have to. Do it because it’s what God wants! Don’t lead because you want to get something financially out of it. Don’t abuse your power, but lead by example. When the ultimate leader shows up, your reward will be indestructible! 

Bodmer Papyrus of Peter’s epistles
Longing For Growth

Longing For Growth

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

The apostle Peter reveals to us that we must make several changes if we desire to grow in God’s Word. The first step is to prepare the heart. 1 Peter 1:22 says, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” To truly grow in God’s Word we must prepare our heart. Peter’s command is to love one another from a pure heart. 

Scripture is a blessing, but not everyone will receive it with joy. In the parable of the soils in Luke 8 Jesus tells us that not everyone will receive the word. Some will never accept it in the first place, some will show joy at first, but eventually fall away, and some will accept the word implanted with joy and stay faithful. 

For the word to be in us, we must prepare our hearts to accept what we will find. Peter commanded a sincere love from a pure heart. For this to take place we must put others first. The world doesn’t act this way, but is filled with selfish people who are only interested in themselves. God’s Word cannot be in this kind of person. There must be a change of heart to that which is pure. This can all be done by seeing others as more important than yourself. A selfless heart is a saved heart. 

The second step in letting God’s Word grow in us is to have a proper desire for the word. Many Christians recognize the power of God’s Word, but they lack the desire to study and grow. 

1 Peter 2:2 says, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation.” The Greek word for “long” means “to have a strong desire for.” We are to have a strong desire for scripture. By doing this we grow in our knowledge of salvation. 

It is vital that we long to learn more about God. That we desire to know more about our salvation. That we learn more about how we are to live as God’s children. The more we learn the more we will want to read scripture. 

The first time you go to a gym you hate it. You hate the soreness, the fatigue, the sweat. But after a month or two you begin to look forward to that feeling. You look forward to going to the gym. I don’t know, you may call that a mental illness, but it really is true. Just think the next time you open your Bible, you are reading the very words of God. He wanted you to see and learn what He has to say. 

The more you dig, the more you will want to learn. And this is the proper response to scripture. 

Long for it. Desire it. Chase after more than anything else, and you will see the change that comes.

The Volunteer Fire Department

The Volunteer Fire Department

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fire departments received 36,416,000 calls to respond in 2020. That included over 23 million for medical aid, 1,388,500 for fires, 750,000 for hazardous materials, and 5,938,500 for other hazardous conditions (NFPA Study). While a relatively small percentage of calls are actually to fires, firefighters leave with a mindset to save a life every time they respond to a call. A study by Hylton Haynes finished in November 2017 for NFPA research, there are 29,067 fire departments in the United States (NFPA Study II). With the total U.S. population above 330,000,000, that’s over 11,000 people for every fire department. But, no community would feel safe without trained firefighters living there. If we could pick the way we died, I can’t imagine any of us would choose death by fire. 

Jude paints a dramatic picture in verse 24 of his short epistle, calling on Christians to “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” That fire is “the punishment of eternal fire” (7). We are talking about a fire which God prepared for the devil and his angels (Mat. 25:41), but will use to punish the spiritually ignorant and the disobedient (2 Th. 1:7-8). It is unquenchable (Mark 9:43). It is a lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15) that burns (Rev. 21:8). While it is hard to imagine that any would choose that fate, Scripture says the majority will (cf. Mat. 7:13-14; 25:46). So, God enlists you and me as volunteer firefighters. The thing with this fire is that people do not experience tangible warnings of it through their skin or lungs, telling them that this fire is encroaching. The only way to perceive this is with the heart, mind, and the eyes of faith. God is counting on us to appeal to those in danger through these means. God has given us the firefighting equipment we need through His Word and our lives as living examples of that Word. Though many incredibly do not want to be rescued, others do! The exhortation is to “snatch” those in danger of fire, to “grab or seize suddenly so as to remove or gain control; to snatch or take away” (BDAG 134). We cannot forcibly rescue anyone, but we must remain vigilant to pull out of the fire all who would welcome our intervention. 

Society still holds firefighters in high regard and few if any argue against the need for their existence. It is good for us to remember how God regards His children who are firefighters and how much He is relying on us to stay at that job (Dan. 12:3; 1 Cor. 1:21; Jas. 5:19-20)! Let’s keep working on our skills and improving our abilities to “save others, snatching them out of the fire.” Those rescued will be eternally grateful! 

via PxHere (Creative Common)
Two Camps

Two Camps

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I understand the power of grace, and am grateful for it. I understand that those walking in the light have lenience with God, and I’m grateful for that! But I still wonder what I’m missing. Many (maybe most) Christians feel the same way. We want Jesus to come back as soon as possible! But the thought is also terrifying. After all, a lot of Christians will be shocked when they’re condemned at judgment (Matt 7.21). So how do we avoid that eternal gut punch? 

Obviously, the first step is to join God’s family the way he said to. “Being saved” is not just about rescue from sin. That’s part of it! Being saved is about the last day. When Jesus separates humanity into two camps (Matt 25.32), we want to be in the one that doesn’t get destroyed. 

Notice what Jesus tells people on both sides: “I was hungry, so you gave me food. I was thirsty, so you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, but you invited me into your home. I had no clothes, so you gave me some. I was sick, so you took care of me. I was in prison, so you visited me” (Matt 25.34-36). 

If that statement applies to someone, they’re saved. If it doesn’t, they’re out of luck. 

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t say, “You had the correct view of worship. You debated the plan of salvation with religious groups. You read your bible every day.” Those are critical (see the whole New Testament), so don’t misunderstand me. 

But when Jesus addresses both groups, their fate will be decided by how they treated God’s family. 

So what do we take away from this? 

  • Take care of the physical needs of church family. 
  • Be very careful about criticizing the church. Err on the side of caution. 
  • Keep priorities where they need to be. There’s a time and place for defending God’s word and his teachings! But most of our energy should be dedicated to what matters most to Jesus. 

When we take care of each other, we’ll be told, “My father has nothing but praise for you! Come with me, you’ve inherited the kingdom that was made for you when we created the world” (Matt 25.34). 

The Location Of Salvation

The Location Of Salvation

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Most people can think of a specific location that brings them joy. It could be a vacation destination, a certain getaway spot, or a favorite city or park. It’s a location that is filled with memories and good times. We find ourselves dreaming about those places when we are loaded down with life. What we wouldn’t give to be relaxing on that beach, away from all the work and responsibilities. What is it about these places that causes us to long to be there? It’s the thought of being somewhere that’s free of care and worry. 
In scripture, salvation is often described as being found in a very specific location. The Bible records numerous examples of when God saved His people in a specific location. The Passover in Exodus 12 is an example of this. If the people wanted to keep their firstborn children, they were to spread blood on the doorposts of their homes. By doing this, the death angel would pass over the houses with blood on them. There are several other examples of salvation being in a specific location such as Noah’s ark in Genesis 6-9 and Rahab’s home in Joshua 2.
If salvation was found on the ark and in Rahab’s home, where is it now? Scripture teaches us that the church Christ died to establish is the place of safety today. 

The plan: a new covenant (Mark 14:24)
–The purpose: save the souls that are added to the body (Rom. 8:1-3) 
–The promise: eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11) 

The Old Testament examples mentioned all contained specific instructions: Build the ark out of gopher wood, pick a certain amount of animals, and tie a scarlet rope to the window. These specific locations brought salvation but only through obedience to God and His plan. 
What specific instructions do we have today? The contents of the New Testament explain in perfect detail how we can be added to God’s location of salvation. The ark saved Noah and His family from destruction, the scarlet rope tied to the window of Rahab’s home saved her and her family, and baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Pt. 3:21) will save anyone and everyone that wishes to be added to the church. 

Ignorance And Inoculation

Ignorance And Inoculation

Neal Pollard

Stephen Coss, author of The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics, relates the fascinating story of the first widespread inoculation effort in the fight against the deadly plague of smallpox. At a time when medical practice was steeped in vast misunderstanding and wrongheaded medical treatments (more than half a century later, George Washington’s doctors would facilitate his death by treating his cold and fever through bloodletting!), two unlikely men were able to withstand the withering criticism of the local medical community and superstitious Boston residents who adamantly vilified them both. One was a physician, Zabdiel Boylston, ostracized, threatened, and condemned by his peers and the town’s council. The other was Cotton Mather, forever infamous for his superstitious influence in the Salem witch hunt and trials that led to the execution of over 20 innocent people a quarter-century earlier. Both believed that by infecting a person with a small amount of smallpox, they could prevent death and even a serious, scarring case of the frightening disease. No less than young Benjamin Franklin piled on with criticism and satire against the two men’s campaign, but both were ultimately vindicated as the inoculations proved far superior in saving lives in Boston’s deadliest smallpox outbreak. It took a lot of courage and conviction for these men to persist in the face of resistance from the highest places of their society.

What if there was a disease that threatened one hundred percent of the global population, one that proved one hundred percent fatal if untreated? What if there was a remedy available that was proven to save every patient from otherwise certain death? What if you knew it worked? Would you have the courage and conviction to offer it to the infected, even in the face of intimidation and threat?

Over 600 years before Christ, a prophet wrote, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” (Jer. 8:22). The balm of Gilead, who was also the Great Physician, came to be the remedy and administer it to the willing (Mat. 9:12; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 4:23; 5:31). He left us in charge of offering this remedy and trying to prevent spiritual death (Jn. 8:21,24) in as many people as possible. Most will reject or at least ignore the offer, unaware of the gravity of their condition. That cannot deter us! Jesus is counting on us to apply His blood to rescue the perishing and care for the dying. A day is coming when there will be no more remedy (cf. 2 Chron. 36:16), but we must be out sharing it until that moment! There are people out there searching for a cure (Mat. 7:7-8). Whatever it costs us, let’s not stop until we’ve helped as many people as we can!

Painting of Zabdiel Boylston
The God We Serve

The God We Serve

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

25 ways God has shown His love to us: 

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2) 
  2. The Cross (Matthew 27:32-56) 
  3. Salvation (John 3:16) 
  4. The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  5. The Church (Ephesians 2:19-22) 
  6. The Ability To Pray (Philippians 4:6) 
  7. A Caring High Priest (Hebrews 4:15) 
  8. The Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) 
  9. True Peace (Philippians 4:7) 
  10. Purpose (1 Peter 2:9) 
  11. Made Us Alive (Ephesians 2:5) 
  12. Servitude (Matthew 12:18) 
  13. Gave Us An Identity (John 1:12) 
  14. Joy (Proverbs 10:28)
  15. An Example (John 13:1-17) 
  16. Revealed Knowledge (Ephesians 1:17)
  17. Compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) 
  18. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11) 
  19. Strength (Exodus 15:2) 
  20. Good Advice (Matthew 6:34
  21. Takes Our Anxiety (1 Peter 5:7) 
  22. A Refuge (Psalm 46:1) 
  23. A Resurrection (John 11:25) 
  24. A Place Of Rest (Matthew 11:29)
  25. He’s Coming Back (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
PLEASE LOOK BEHIND THE CANVAS!

PLEASE LOOK BEHIND THE CANVAS!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Safari 2017

Neal Pollard

I sat next to a man at dinner the other night, a retired Marine officer named Anthony who was now a successful businessman. Though he was in his sixties and had six grandchildren, he could have passed, even with a smattering of gray hair, for an elite athlete. He was incredibly intelligent, articulate, a war hero, wealthy, and, by anyone’s estimation, a true Renaissance man. He was also a brand new Christian.

Despite his apparent success, he confessed to having experienced decades of emptiness inside. He described it as I have often heard people describe it, that there was a hole inside and nothing he tried would fill it. He pictured it as painting a facade. He held out the canvas for others to see what he projected, but the man behind the painting was hollow, depressed, and ever searching. 

That changed when his neighbor, a man named David Grimes, took an interest in his life. They began walking together in their neighborhood, discussing life. David would always refer Anthony to the Bible and what God’s Word had to say. At some time later, when Anthony faced a crisis, he found himself reaching out to David for help. Ultimately, through David’s friendship and his efforts to teach him, Anthony obeyed the gospel!

Anthony said, “There are a lot of people like me out there! They seem secure, confident, in control, and without need. But they are searching to fill a void in their lives. I know. I was one of them.” We can convince ourselves in these troubling, ungodly times that nobody is interested in God and His Word. Anthony would encourage you to get involved in the lives of your coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and the people you connect with through your children’s activities. No matter what they are projecting, invest in them. At some point, they will let you in. They will allow you to look behind the canvas and the pretty picture they have painted, and you will see a soul searching for something only God can satisfy! God is counting on us to see past the pretense and help that person He loved enough to give His Son for. The picture of success in the world’s eyes was secretly aching for something deeper and better. He found it in the only place it can be found–in Christ! 

Please look behind the canvas!