Mine!

Mine!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

When I first got into shooting, I relied pretty heavily on what others believed. There was (and is) a wide range of opinions on which platforms are the best, which calibers are the most effective, or which subcultural group is the worst (mall ninjas, fuds, tacticool operators, etc.). Most hold their opinions with great passion and will advocate for their position vehemently. I never really enjoyed shooting with the platforms and calibers I initially chose because I made all of my decisions based on the preferences of people I respected and admired. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I did not yet feel as if the sport was truly mine. Several years later, countless thousands of rounds, and hours of research, and I’ve found my place. I prefer 9mm, Glocks or Caniks, Combloc, AR platforms, 6.5 Grendel is the best intermediate round, etc. In other words, it’s not an “inherited” faith. I like what I like based on the energy I’ve dedicated to study and practice.

When it comes to elements of our faith, how often do we challenge our personal beliefs? Unlike firearms – which are subjective and spiritually irrelevant – our faith is based on an objective standard. It is difficult to have a strong, personal faith if most of what we believe is based on what others taught us or what others believe. We may even adopt their beliefs because we admire and respect them as people. That’s not a great foundation. Humans are fallible!

Approaching scripture as a blank slate, asking only, “What does God want me to believe about ______?” is the best way to grow. The only opinion that matters is God’s! When we hear something that elicits an emotional response and seems to conflict with our current beliefs, we shouldn’t panic. God’s word determines validity. If we can approach scripture without bias, we’ll grow exponentially. Challenging our beliefs does more than simply refine our understanding – it forces us to take ownership of our faith. Not only will this cause growth, it will also deepen our love for God and our confidence in eternal destination!

On an elk hunting trip in Gunnison, CO, around 2008.
CONCEALED CARRIER

CONCEALED CARRIER

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

To get your concealed carry permit for a firearm in Kentucky, you can expect to undergo a background check, complete gun safety training, and pay a fee. There is a minimum age requirement, and there are other conditions to meet while holding a permit (which can be revoked or suspended). Did you know that in 2020, there were over 68,000 permits either issued or renewed? Since 1996, well over one million have been issued and renewed here. What does all that mean? It means that there are a lot of people you run into on the road, in the store, and just about any other public place who are carrying and you don’t know it. 

I do not mention any of this to induce or participate in a Second Amendment debate. There is a different type of “concealed carrier” which Jesus does not approve of. He preaches about it in His sermon on the Mount. He says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16).  Jesus exhorts His disciples not to conceal the light of their influence.

It is impossible for a true disciple to conceal their influence (14). Truly, one can claim to be a follower of Christ in an affirming environment like at church services or around Christians. Yet, if we can be around people away from these “easy” situations and no one knows, from our speech, action, attitude, and presence, that we are a Christian, how much of a disciple are we? Jesus says it should be totally obvious to everyone!

It is unprofitable for a disciple to conceal their influence (15). What good is it to be a disciple if those characteristics are suppressed and concealed? A lamp might as well be a piece of furniture if it is covered up. All the knowledge of who Jesus is and what He means is useless if we do not apply that by sharing Him in our daily lives! 

It is dishonorable for a disciple to conceal their influence (16). Our “light” is connected to doing the good works of a disciple and others glorifying the Father by witnessing the fruits of our influence. If seeing Christlike influence at work honors God, what does the opposite do?

God needs us spreading the influence of Christ every day and everywhere. There is no “secret service” branch in the Lord’s Army, and He doesn’t want any “concealed carry” light-bearers! No, not practicing your righteousness to be seen of men. Instead, practicing righteousness openly and without shame as you conduct yourself among the world. 

“I’m Armed”

“I’m Armed”

Neal Pollard

God’s people around our nation are praying for our brethren at the West Freeway church of Christ outside Fort Worth, Texas. Most congregations I know have long since devised church security solutions, including security cameras, personnel to watch at entrances, and procedures for handling potential threats. In likely every congregation, there are a number of individuals both with concealed and visible firearms. Though this is a politically divisive issue, the fact that a gunman disrupted the most sacred moment of worship makes this preeminently relevant. You likely feel very strongly about this matter, regardless of where you stand on it.

Whatever your position on the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution, did you know that the Bible commands us to be armed? Consider what the Holy Spirit through various writers has to say regarding something that transcends time and earth. Wherever we go, we must not be without these weapons for our spiritual warfare.

–“Be armed with the purpose of suffering” (1 Peter 4:1). This word means to take up arms. It is in the context of suffering righteously for Christ’s sake. In a world filled with people who are aimless, Christians have the ultimate purpose. In fulfilling that purpose, we will be opposed, threatened, and tempted to quit. Only by preparing ourselves for the Christ-life will we survive whoever or whatever attempts to destroy our faith.

–“Be armed with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left” (2 Cor. 6:7). Paul did not want Corinth to receive the grace of God in vain. That is, He wanted the sacrifice of Jesus and the hope of heaven to benefit these Christians. Part of that required them to live lives which didn’t discredit their ministry (3) and commended themselves as servants of God (4). One of several ways they could do that was by being armed with the weapons of righteousness. What are these? Well, Paul will address that in 2 Corinthians 10:1ff as well as in his writing to the church at Ephesus (6:10ff). In simplest terms, righteousness itself is a powerful weapon. We are made right (5:21) to do right (6:7). In a world of darkness, light stands out. In a world going wrong, doing right and being right is powerful!

–“Be armed with divinely powerful weapons for the destruction of fortresses … against the knowledge of God” (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Paul contrasts the flesh and spirit, identifying this as the ultimate battlefield. How do you win against such frightening foes and forces? Arm yourself with the only weapon that is divine and destructive. What it destroys is what stands against God. Don’t think fleshly (or bodily). This goes beyond that.

I fear that the gun rights-gun control debate will rage on in the culture of politics and the politics of culture. But, do not be distracted! There is an eternal war going on which requires every one of us to be equipped. Do not dare be unarmed for that fight!

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The Fight Between The Skunk And The Snake

The Fight Between The Skunk And The Snake

Neal Pollard

Some time ago, I wrote, “I passed by a skunk and a snake, fighting tooth and nail. I didn’t stop and pet either or take sides. I got out of there as fast as I could.” That was metaphorical rather than actual, though I’ve had encounters with each animal individually. My point had to do with some of the “fights” that regularly occur on social media about some of the most unnecessary causes.

The common ground of these posts and articles are their extremely polarizing effect, drawing a multitude of allies and opponents. So often, they relate to matters that, of themselves, will not effect a single person’s eternity (though the poor stewardship of time, emphasis, tone, and attitude might imperil more than a few).

I have been tempted to weigh in on probably a thousand of these spats and civil wars, but I do not. It’s not that I do not have decided views on nearly all the debates. Instead, I try to project myself into the future. Will it expand my influence for Christ for good? What will my comment add to the spirit of brotherly love, magnanimity, unity, and church growth? Will I truly be helping struggling souls? Will it elevate the view of Jesus’ bride in the eyes of the lost, the weak, and the wayward? 

After reflecting, the answer is always the same. I cannot answer that for my interjecting brethren. Nor am I one to avoid preaching or personally discussing matters because they may be unpopular or alienating. However, because social media is more impersonal and lacking in the interpersonal dynamics of face-to-face interaction, we run a much greater risk of being misunderstood. 

Today, controversy can be created in real time. As a good friend of mine put it, “Everybody has a megaphone now.” What really requires courage is stepping out from behind a computer or phone and personally interacting with someone we disagree with in civil, loving discourse. It may not foster page views, mass reactions, and reams of online comments, but in the end it may reach more hearts and minds. 

In our current culture, dividing people into camps against each other is incredibly easy. But is it wise? Is it right (Proverbs 6:19b)? 

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