What We Know About Recently Uncovered Ancient Viking Treasure

What We Know About Recently Uncovered Ancient Viking Treasure

Neal Pollard

BBC reports that Historic Environment Scotland, Treasure Trove Unit, and the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrance’s conservation team have discovered an ancient Viking pot full of treasure, including six silver Anglo-Saxon disc brooches, a silver brooch from Ireland, Byzantine silk, a gold ingot, and gold and crystal objects wrapped in cloth bundles (read article here). The objects date from the 8th or 9th Century. The article goes on to tell us what the discover cannot tell us, at least without years of further research and theorizing. Stuart Campbell of the Treasure Trove Unit says, “”The complexity of the material in the hoard raises more questions than it answers, and like all the best archaeology, this find doesn’t give any easy answers. Questions about the motivations and cultural identity of the individuals who buried it will occupy scholars and researchers for years to come” (ibid.).

While we do not know whether the owner of this pot was a Christian or was more interested in laying up treasure in heaven, we do know that he (or she) was laying up treasure on this earth. We also know that this treasure did not continue to benefit the owner following his or her demise. The photographs released with the find also show that the objects have been worn and decayed with time.  It seems like a fitting illustration of what Jesus taught.

In the Sermon on the Mount, he wrote, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Mat. 6:19-21).  He doesn’t condemn saving or even making money. He does continue to warn that one inevitably chooses God or money as master (Mat. 6:24). This find in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, reminds us of the ultimate futility in laying up treasures on the earth.  What’s held and hoarded isn’t stored in heaven, but it does reflect what’s in the heart. Later, Paul urges Timothy to teach the need to fix the hope on God rather than riches (1 Tim. 6:17).

It would be great to find out that this was the church treasury of a congregation of God’s people being taken and used to help the poor or preach the gospel or the personal portfolio of a person who put his riches to good use in the kingdom. It’s not statistically probable, but it’s possible. What I do know is that there is a Perfect, Heavenly Accountant who knows what we treasure most. May our legacy be that we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Mat. 6:33).

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Driving Heavy Trucks Over Old Roman Bridges

Driving Heavy Trucks Over Old Roman Bridges

Neal Pollard

Periodically, the Bear Valley Bible Institute shows the student body Francis Schaeffer’s classic video series, “How Should We Then Live?” There is a book of the same title that covers the same essential material. A part that particularly stands out in my mind is this analogy:

“A culture or an individual with a weak base can stand only when the pressure on it is not too great. As an illustration, let us think of a Roman bridge. The Romans built little humpbacked bridges over many of the streams of Europe. People and wagons went over these structures safely for centuries, for two millennia. But if people today drove heavily loaded trucks over these bridges, they would break. It is this way with the lives and value systems of individuals and cultures when they have nothing stronger to build on than their own limitedness, their own finiteness. They can stand when pressures are not too great, but when pressures mount, if then they do not have a sufficient base, they crash—just as a Roman bridge would cave in under the weight of a modern six-wheeled truck. Culture and the freedoms of people are fragile. Without a sufficient base, when such pressures come only time is needed and often not a great deal of time-before there is a collapse” (transcript via thedailyhatch.org, Everette Hatcher III).

His point is clear. When a culture’s base is atheism (there is no God), evolution (we are the product of mindless, aimless chance), materialism and humanism (things are god and man is the supreme authority), and hedonism (pleasure is the highest good), it can survive, at least for a time, in the absence of trial and pressure.  However, when a culture is subjected to tests and challenges, it only has its foundation to stand upon.

It is in times of pressure that passages we may see as simplistic and straightforward take on profound new meaning.  Ending His great sermon teaching about this very principle, Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall” (Matt. 7:24-27). Those word pictures make an ideal children’s song for Bible Class and VBS, but they also contain an imperative message for every society.  We cannot reject God and His Word, replace it with inferior substitutes, and remain in peace, prosperity, and protection. Jesus’ warning has eternal implications regarding everlasting destiny, but how often has Proverbs 14:34 played out in a society that removes its bedrock foundation to build its life on shifting sand?

Our task, as God’s people, is to double down our commitment to take the gospel to our neighbors (Matt. 28:18-20) and spread the message that hope and peace comes through submitting to the authority of Christ and His word and living by this as the pattern of life. What a beautiful transformation the Christian life provides us, no matter what frightening things happen around us. There is no test or pressure weighty enough to make that foundation crumble!

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Grappling Over Grass?

Grappling Over Grass?

Neal Pollard

I heard about the guy last week who tried to choke his neighbor’s lawn service worker for failing to weed the neighbor’s flower bed.  The worker explained he had been hired to cut and trim the grass, but not the beds.  This apparently unsatisfactory answer led to the “choker” leaving visible marks on his victim and ultimately being charged with a count of felony battery.  The irate neighbor was convinced that the lack of weeding was causing him to now be fighting weeds in his own lawn.  The attacking neighbor tried to pull the victim off his riding mower and grabbed him by the neck.

If these are all the facts, what an extreme case of mixed up priorities.  Hurting another person over how unkempt or manicured his or their lawn is?  It seems unthinkable. But many of us know “that” neighbor.  Some of us may wrestle with being “that” neighbor.  If we could step back, we might see how silly excessive obsession with such things is.

In speaking about worry, Jesus reminds us that the grass of the field is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace (Mat. 6:30). Peter adds that the grass withers (1 Pe. 1:24). James similarly speaks of withering, fading, and expiring grass (1:10ff).  These men said this to make a spiritual point about worrying, the Word, and wisdom, but the fact remains that grass is numbered among those things that will be burned up at the end of the world (2 Pe. 3:10).  Yet, the souls of men will continue somewhere everlastingly (cf. Mat. 25:46).

Are we spending too much time grappling over grass, fretting over finances, or wrapped up in the world?  Are we giving the best part of ourselves for that which in the end matters least?  Jesus said, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life…” (John 6:27).  Maybe it’s not food or grass for you.  Whatever earthly thing it may be, put it in its proper place.  And put Him in His proper place (cf. Mat. 6:33).

Her Closet Was Her Refuge

Her Closet Was Her Refuge

Neal Pollard

42-year-old Sefa Cebeci was with her husband in a seven-story building in Duzce, Turkey, when just before 7:00 P.M. local time on November 12, 1999, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake shook the city.  The building collapsed, and when all was said and done nearly 1,000 people were dead—including Sefa’s husband who was right beside her.  Despite rescue team leaders from some countries calling off the search for survivors after three days, an Israeli team pulled her from the rubble after nearly 5 days without food and water.  She would have to have an arm amputated and her kidney failure from dehydration nearly killed her.  She was able to survive in freezing temperatures for 105 hours under tons of concrete. How? A closet fell on top of her and protected her from her collapsed house.  Her closet became her refuge (facts via BBC News articles, 5/11/13 and 11/17/99).

Have you ever noticed a Christian whose life seemed to be crashing in all around them?  You would not imagine they could survive the spiritual carnage.  Yet, they survive.  The reasons certainly vary, but one variable that has to be in place for them has to do with their “closet.”  Do you remember in Jesus’ great sermon that He said to “enter into thy closet” to pray rather make a vain, public show of prayer (cf. Mat. 6:6, KJV)?  That word “closet,” variously translated “inner room,” “your room,” “private room,” and “inner chamber” is one found almost exclusively in the Septuagint (Greek Old Testament) and the gospels.  It is translated “storehouse” or “warehouse” (Luke 12:24; Mat. 24:26), but also “bedroom” or “chamber” (Gen. 43:30; 2 Ki. 6:12; Zodhiates, Spiros. The complete word study dictionary: New Testament 2000: n. pag. Print).  It refers to any place of privacy where one cannot be easily seen (ibid.).

Isn’t that where spiritual survival is made or broken, not necessarily and not primarily in our public assemblies or fellowship activities but in private?  When I am alone, do I seek refuge by entering into the closet of prayer, study, and private devotion?  In happy, prosperous times, I should be found there.  It will prepare me for calamitous, catastrophic events.  When my life is shaken to the core, I will survive if in my closet.

Jesus does not specify what kind of reward enjoyed by those whose prayer life is genuine rather than showy, but certainly there is no greater reward than enduring the trials of life spiritually intact. We may come away scarred and hurt, but we will survive!  Be a spiritual survivor!  Spend as much time as you can in your closet.

Actual photo of Sefa Cebeci in an Istanbul hospital (1999)

 

How Julio Diaz Lived Out Matthew 5

How Julio Diaz Lived Out Matthew 5

Neal Pollard

Steve Moore writes about Julio Diaz, a New York city social worker who would take the subway to the Bronx each night to eat dinner at his favorite diner. One evening, a teenager brandished a knife and attempted to rob him.  Diaz handed over his wallet, but as the thief walked away he said to him, “Hey, wait a minute. You forgot something. If you’re going to be robbing people for the rest of the night, you might as well take my coat to keep you warm.” This baffled the teen, and from there Diaz was able to talk him into eating dinner with him in the diner. The teen was struck by how so many knew him and greeted him. The bill came at the end of the dinner, and Diaz offered to buy if he could get his wallet back. Without thinking, the teen handed it back to him. Diaz gave him a $20 and asked only for the knife in return (Who Is My Neighbor?, 44-45).  We would hope that this prompted the teen to reform his life and make something nobler of himself, but if he does not it will not be Diaz’s fault.

What would you do if you were in a predicament like that?  Maybe you would fight back, and who knows how that would end.  Maybe you would compliantly give the wallet and watch in silence as the thief left.  Yet, notice how profoundly Julio Diaz impacted this young man by doing more than was expected.  His victim was willing to give even more than was asked of him.  The world cannot produce that kind of wisdom and street smarts.

Diaz took a page right out of the Divine playbook.  Jesus taught, “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Mat. 5:38-42).  What incredible wisdom!  Such action melts hearts and gives people a glimpse of Divine thinking.

It’s not likely you’ll be robbed at gun or knife point today.  However, somebody will mistreat you, speak evil about you, or otherwise hurt you–soon!  What will you do in response?  Why not pull a Diaz? Why not follow the guidance of the greatest sermon ever preached?