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!

The Invitation Song

The Invitation Song

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Some of the most powerful messages are often delivered through song. If you want to really show someone how much you love them, you write a song. If you want to tell others about yourself or your family, you write a song. Songs are a great way to get across a message in a powerful way. In the church we sing songs for several reasons.
 
Paul tells us in Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
‭We sing to help the word of God dwell in our hearts. We sing to teach each other. We sing admonish and correct. We sing out of thankfulness for God. Since there are so many different reasons we sing, each song has a different message. Some are encouraging, some are reminders, and some are a plea to the sinner. We call some of these “invitation songs. ” And usually these are sung after a lesson as a way to encourage lost souls to respond and return.
 
“Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet” identifies a major problem that has plagued man since the Garden of Eden, our sin. The choices we make, the way we live, has stained us. This song calls to our attention the sin problem of man. This song is based on Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
This invitation song shows us the blessing that Christ has given. Though we’ve been stained by sin, they shall become like snow. Pure, holy, undefiled. If you’ve ever spilled grape juice on a white T-shirt, that’s the imagery.
 
Sin has ruined our hearts, but Christ is the perfect stain remover. He is able to remove every spot and blemish. Rom. 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Do we really think that we could live up to the glory of God himself? Could we have fixed this sin problem on our own? No. And we sing this song to remind us of WHO our solution is.
 
Through the gift of Christ they will be removed. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
 
On an old rugged cross Jesus paid it all, and all to him I owe. I come just as I am, but I surrender all. Will you cherish the old rugged cross? Do you recognize the blessing and the blood that has washed us whiter than snow?
 
 
One of my favorite preachers delivering the invitation in Lexington, KY (2018)
In Prison On Purpose

In Prison On Purpose

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

In the 14th century two brothers fought for the right to rule over what is now Belgium. The older brother’s name was Raynald, but he was commonly called “Crassus” which in Latin meant “fat” because he was horribly obese. After a heated battle, Raynald’s younger brother, Edward, won and assumed the role of Duke over his lands. Instead of killing Crassus, Edward had a room in his castle built around him with only one door. The door was not locked, the windows were not barred, and Edward promised that Crassus could regain his land and his title any time he wanted to. All he had to do was leave the room. The obstacle was not the door or the windows, but Crassus himself. He was so overweight that even though the door was normal sized he couldn’t fit through it! All he needed to do was diet down to a smaller size then walk out a free man however Edward kept sending all of Crassus’ favorite foods to his room and in the end Crassus’ appetite won over his desire to be free.

In Romans 6 Paul is addressing a false belief that sinful living is not something to avoid because it brings more of God’s grace into our lives. In verse 13 we read, “do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life.” Those “members” that Paul mentions here are those physical parts of us that need careful monitoring. The ears, nose, feet, hands, eyes, etc., can either be used for sin or for serving Him.

This is illustrated in the life of David. When he was young God used his hands to slay the giant for His sake. Later in David’s life sin would use his eyes for wickedness when he pursued Bathsheeba. Freedom in Christ is ours if we want it, but we need to tame our members and use our instruments for His purpose and not our own.

Someone once put it this way, “If grace doesn’t change your life, it won’t save your soul.” In other words, if the gift of Christ doesn’t change how we walk then we can’t expect grace to cover any sin we commit against Him. We have access to many blessings of a spiritual and physical nature but only if we are among the faithful. If we’re not, we are trapped in a prison of our own making.

“Charakter”

“Charakter”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Safari 2017

Neal Pollard

Character is defined as the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual and involves a person’s good reputation. The Greek word “charakter” first referred to the die used in minting coins, then came to include the sense of an image, stamp, seal, or copy. The Greeks used the word to speak of the typical features of an individual or nation, from which came the idea of “moral character” and then “the “distinctiveness” of a language, the “style” of a writer, or a “type” of philosophy (Kittel and Bromiley, TDNT, 1308). Arndt tells us the word means something produced as a representation or reproduction, and that human beings are formed by God as a representation of His own identity (1078).

The word is only found in the Bible in Hebrews 1:3. The epistle’s writer is describing Jesus, saying, “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” It is an absolutely amazing truth that we are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27), but the writer of Hebrews is saying something even more powerful about Jesus in Hebrews 1:3. He was not created by God as a reflection of God’s identity. The writer uses this specific word in Hebrews as part of His explanation that the Son is God! The NASB and NIV translate χαρακτήρ (CHARAKTER) as “exact representation.” The ESV has “exact imprint,” the NKJV has “express image,” the NLT says “expresses the very character of God,” and the ASV puts “the very image of His substance.” 

The author of this epistle leads out in his overall theme that Jesus is better by establishing the most important reason why. He is God. The writer uses Old Testament Scripture to prove it, citing Psalm 45 and Isaiah 61 to call Him God (Heb. 1:8-9). He then quotes Psalm 102:25 to say of Jesus, “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth….” Then, in Hebrews 1:13, he quotes Psalm 110:1, which begins, “The LORD (Yahweh) said to my Lord (Adonai)….”

Let’s not miss the initial point of the letter driven home by the unknown writer. With a multitude of Old Testament passages, he proves this point about the essential character of Jesus Christ. He is God. He is as much God as Father and Holy Spirit. He is as powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, perfect, sovereign, transcendent, self-existent, eternal–He is as Divine as Deity can be. 

That makes His willingness to be made a little while lower than the angels to taste death for everyone (Heb. 2:9) and to call us His brethren (2:11ff) all the more incredible. God lowered Himself not only to save us but to make us part of His family. We could spend the rest of the day meditating on that profound truth and still not fully grasp it. 

Here’s the question. God made us, became  one of us, died for us, and then opened the door to us to be His brother. What does that say about His character? As we try to fathom and appreciate that, it should give rise to another question? How should that affect  our character?

We Are Not Doing Right” (2 Kings 7)

We Are Not Doing Right” (2 Kings 7)

Monday Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard 

There was a famine in Samaria and everyone was desperate. The need for food was more pressing than the danger they faced in looking for it. Elisha predicted the end of the famine but Jehoram’s right hand man refused to believe it could happen so quickly. The prophet tells him he’d see it happen but that he would not eat of it (2).

Four lepers decided to throw themselves on the mercy of the Arameans, but God caused the besieging army to hear the sound of enemy armies. They imagine the worst and leave their camp in pursuit. So, when the lepers arrived at the camp, it was abandoned. They found food and riches beyond their wildest imagination. They start to hoard and gorge themselves, then had second thoughts. They say to each other, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (9). Several things stand out here.

THESE MEN HAD GOOD NEWS.

IT WAS WRONG FOR THEM TO KEEP SILENT ABOUT IT.

THEY EXPECTED PUNISHMENT IF THEY DIDN’T URGENTLY SHARE IT.

THEY ADMONISHED EACH OTHER TO TELL IT.

They did and they helped save the nation. God caused it to happen but He worked through these four lepers. The famine ended (and the royal officer was trampled at the gate—he saw the famine end but died before it could benefit him).

I am reminded of my task as a Christian, one spiritually sick with sin but in a similar situation. I have found good news. It is wrong for me to keep silent. I must not just share it but do so urgently! I also need to admonish you to realize you are in the same predicament as me. You cannot afford to keep silent! A feast awaits! 

Mt. Zion Is Better Than Mt. Sinai

Mt. Zion Is Better Than Mt. Sinai

Friday’s Column: Guest Writer

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Kason Eubanks

In 1986, Roy Whetstine was in Arizona at a mineral show. He was digging through a plastic bowl of rocks. He saw a large stone the size of a potato that looked interesting. He bought the stone for $10. Later, Whetstine would learn that his rock was actually the world’s largest sapphire, worth $2.28 million. The man who sold Whetstine the stone was willing to give up something of great value because he did not know what he had. 

The Jews in Hebrews had a hard time giving up “Mt. Sinai” for “Mt. Zion” because they did not know that Mt. Zion was far better. Hebrews 12:18-24, ‘For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore (For they could not endure what was commanded: ‘And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.’ And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, ‘I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.’) But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.” There are a lot of things that are better in the new law, but we are just going to look at three of them. 

In Hebrews, there are just a few of the many blessings in the New Testament. In our passage, the writer compares Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion. Starting in verse 18, he describes Mt. Sinai It sounds awful because if you touched it you would be burned with fire or shot with an arrow. God has the power to do all these things. The writer is referring to when Moses went to get the ten commandments. God wants the people of Israel to understand and not forget them. He wanted them to obey Him so they could be His special treasure (Exod. 19:5) 

Starting in verse 32, he describes Mt. Zion. It’s better because it has better blessings than Mt. Sinai. Let’s look at three  contrasts in our passage. 

INSTEAD OF TERROR, WE CAN BE HAPPY (22)

How can we be happy with Jesus? Moses tells the people what kind of God we serve. In Deuteronomy 33:29, he says,  “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord, The shield of your help And the sword of your majesty! Your enemies shall submit to you, And you shall tread down their high places.” Jesus gives us a rich and satisfying life.” In John 10:10, He says, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” So you can be HAPPY by doing good deeds for others that may need it, and by knowing He is there.

INSTEAD OF KEEPING OUR DISTANCE, WE CAN BE CLOSE (23)

Instead of keeping our distance from Mount Sinai and we don’t have to be scared to get shot if we touch the mountain. How is Jesus close to us? In Proverbs 18:24, it states, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” This shows how Jesus stays close to us.

INSTEAD OF BEING PUNISHED, WE CAN BE REWARDED (24)

Instead of being punished we can be rewarded with heaven. In John 3:16, it states, ”For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What does Jesus want us to do to be saved? We are hearing the word. In Romans 10:16, Paul writes, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” So we can hear his word. Why do we believe in God’s word? In John 8:24 it states, ”unless you believe that I am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” This is why you believe in God’s word. Why do we need to repent of our sins? In Mark 1:15 it states, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Why do we need to confess that Jesus is the son of God? In Matthew 26:63, it states “I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Why do we need to be baptized? In Acts 2:38, it states, “Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’”

All in all we don’t need to keep our distance from God. Instead of keeping God out of our lives, He needs to be in our lives because through Him we make it to heaven.

eubanks

Kason with his family the night of his baptism (May 22, 2021)

“Escargot?”

“Escargot?”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

[Note: I titled it escargot because I used to get eschatology and escargot confused. Plus, in his section concerning the end of time Peter prefaces with, “The Lord isn’t slow concerning His promises the way we consider slowness.” Snails are slow. The end of time seems far away, hence escargot]

A lot of movies detailing a world-ending event are designed to elicit a fearful response from viewers (for thrills, of course). Whether it’s the Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse, Independence Day’s alien invasion, or Knowing’s solar flare (although Nicolas Cage’s acting is probably the most terrifying thing about the movie…), the end of time is usually portrayed as a terrifying event requiring humanity to go to incredible lengths to avoid it. 

Christianity is so beautiful because we’re actually dying for the end to come! 

I Corinthians 1.7 – “…as you wait for the revealing of our lord Jesus Christ…” Wait is apekdechomia, which means to welcome something with great anticipation. The same word is used to I Peter 3.20 where God eagerly waited for the earth to run away from sin in the days of Noah. 

Philippians 3.20 – “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the lord Jesus Christ…” Paul encouraged the Philippian church to imitate the examples of selflessness he had listed, especially since enemies of the cross were in existence (maybe even an indirect reference to Euodia and Syntyche). Unlike the enemies of the cross, we’re waiting for God to save us from this world. 

Romans 8.19 – “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God…” And 23, “Not only creation, but we who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” Redemption is apolutrosis, which describes release from a captive state or from interrogation. We eagerly anticipate the last day. 

Hebrews 9.28 – “…so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Verse 27 makes it very clear that we face judgment immediately after death! Jesus’ second coming is to save us from this world, which was made dysfunctional because of sin. 

II Peter 3.12 – “Since all these things will be undone, what sort of people should you be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hurrying the coming of the day of God, because of which the sky will be set on fire and dismantled, and the earth and the works done within it will be dissolved.” Peter is describing the end, but far from terrifying, we are waiting for and hurrying that last day. 

A lot’s going on in our world, much of it scary and anxiety-inducing. Oh well! “Come back, lord Jesus” (Rev. 22.20).  

Circle of Life

Circle of Life

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

  1. Earth Created (Gen. 1) (A)
  2. Man Sins, Earth Corrupted (Rom. 8) (B)
  3. Access to Tree of Life Blocked (Gen. 3) (C)
  4. Man Unified in Evil (Gen. 6) (D)
  5. Earth Destroyed by Water, Preserved for Destruction by Fire (II Pet. 3.6,7) (E)
  6. Jesus Grants Access to God As Mediator, High Priest, Perfect Sacrifice (Heb. 2.9; Rom. 8.17) (F)
  7. Man Rejects God, Unified in Evil (II Thess. 2.3-12) (4) (D)
  8. Earth Destroyed by Fire (II Pet. 3) (E)
  9. Man Redeemed, Creation Redeemed (Rom. 8.18-20; cf Mt. 19.28) (A, B)
  10. Access to Tree of Life Restored (Rev. 22.2) (C)
  11. God’s Own Live with Him, Share Unique Bond, Can Never Lose Paradise Again (II Pet. 3.13; Rom. 8.29; II Tim. 2.12) (F)

You can also look at it this way: 

  1. Earth Created (Gen. 1) New Heavens, New Earth (II Pet. 3.13; Rev. 21.1; Matt. 19.28)
  2. Man Sins, Earth Corrupted (Rom. 8.18-20) Man Redeemed, Earth Redeemed (Rom. 8.18-25)
  3. Access to Tree of Life Blocked (Gen. 3) Access to Tree of Life Restored (Rev. 22.2)
  4. Man Unified in Evil (Gen. 6)  Man Unified in Evil (II Thess. 2.3-12)
  5. Earth Destroyed by Water (Gen. 7; II Pet. 3.6,7) Earth Destroyed by Fire (II Pet. 3.7)
  6. Jesus Gives Access to Father (Heb. 2.9)  We Live With God (II Tim. 2.12; I Jn. 3.1ff; Rom. 8.29)

“The God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ is blessed. Thanks to His incredible mercy, we are born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ out of death. Because of this, we have an immortal inheritance that has no flaw and cannot wear out. This is guarded in heaven for you who are also guarded by God through faith. This salvation will be revealed to you at the end” (I Pet. 1.3ff).

Salvation

Salvation

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

We don’t typically associate salvation with death. Normally the opposite is true! In the New Testament salvation normally describes forgiveness of sins (Acts 4.12, for example). Escaping spiritual death is how the word is primarily used. The exception to this rule is fascinating and sobering. 

Human instinct compels us to avoid unpleasantness, suffering, and death. When faced with danger or difficulty, our default response is avoidance at all cost. This was a great temptation for many in the early church. 

Peter wrote to Christians who were about to face some awful hardships. He encouraged them by promising salvation, but it was a hard message to swallow. In the following examples, Peter used “salvation” to mean something different (it would have been understood to mean this because of context): 

  1. I Peter 1.5 – Death
  2. I Peter 1.8ff – Death
  3. I Peter 2.2ff – Death

How is death the same thing as salvation? For those who were suffering and stayed faithful, death was the ultimate salvation. For those whose lives were upended because of persecution, being with God forever was salvation. For those who lost their family members, salvation meant reunion. The ultimate result of faith is eternal life with God. 

How do we view difficulty? Do we compromise faith to avoid suffering? At worst, suffering leads to death. At best, suffering leads to death. Nothing can slow a faithful Christian down! We have salvation in this life (guilt does not weigh us down), and the end of this life is salvation. We have an awesome God. 

What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

What Can Be More Minimalist Than the Gospel? 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Minimalism is a term often associated with the arts and humanities. It can also be a term used to describe a lack of decoration or adornment in design. One notes that minimalism features everywhere today, from webpage design to people’s desire to live in tiny houses. Despite sounding like a paradox, I suppose one can make the case that minimalism is the ultimate form of refinement. Even Leonardo DaVinci allegedly proclaimed that simplicity is the art of sophistication.   

Since minimalism appears to be beloved, why is it so difficult to share the simple Gospel to a postmodern world? What could be more straightforward than the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Paul distilled it to three topics about Christ, even though each of those topics can fill volumes of their own accord (cf. 1 Corinthians 15.1ff). Yes, the Gospel, at its core, is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our salvation is contingent on symbolically reenacting His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-6). Indeed, the salvation plan is so simple that kids sing a song detailing those steps to the tune of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”  

Yet, when it comes to religion, complex human emotion appears to trump Divine simplicity. Ask Naaman. When told how to cure his leprosy, Naaman balked. The prophet told him to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River to cleanse his leprosy. Naaman stormed off. 

“Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” (2 Kings 5.11-12 NASB1995) 

Luckily, Naaman’s wise servants were not turned away by simplicity. They reminded their master he would do any great thing to cure his leprosy. So, why not just wash? (2 Kings 5.13) Similarly, I do not think that telling people to be immersed so that they can wash away sins and call on the Lord’s name (Acts 22.16) is a matter of complexity. It is simple. The stumbling block for those unwilling to obey is typically prejudices and fears. They think another way is better. Perhaps, this other way was taught to them by a dear, departed loved one. They do not want to “condemn” their relative by obeying the Gospel.  

However, obeying the Gospel is not an act of judgment. In rendering obedience, I am demonstrating a good conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). We allow God to take care of the implications and trust, like Abram, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Genesis 18.25 NASB1995). No doubt, if that loved one who taught us something differently had the opportunity to be preached the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ, then they would have obeyed too.  

If time permitted, I could expound upon other areas in which human emotion overly complicates the minimalism of God’s Divine plan for items such as worship. Yet, as with the virtue I am extolling, minimalism, it is best to keep this focused and concise. We should not be surprised that God would make the most critical things, like salvation, simple for us all to understand. Minimalism, experts remind us, is user-friendly and accessible. That is why we like it so. And it is also why God, the Master Designer, set up things so that the simplest among us can gain wisdom from it (Psalm 19.7).  

Indeed, what can be more minimalist than the Gospel?  

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