Filled To The Brim

Filled To The Brim

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

The first miracle of Jesus is found in John chapter two. While many won’t give much thought to the servants in this account, let’s place the focus on them here. 

John 2.1-11 

On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you. 

When Jesus refers to His mother as “woman” He was using a term of respect in that day and age. John writes that the hour of His death had not come because that is an underlying narrative of his book. 

Continuing on, 

“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” 

Now, notice the response of the servants. 

“So they filled them up to the brim.” 

They never questioned why they should fill these jars with water. This was no simple task and it was no doubt a time consuming chore. The jars held anywhere from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty gallons of water. They likely drew the water out of a well— one bucket at time. 

Jesus then tells the servants, 

 “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” 

Once again, notice the response of the servants. 

“So they took it.” 

The servants didn’t ask why they should draw the water out or even why they should take it to the master of the feast. They don’t seem to hesitate even though it could have been a humiliating experience to serve water to the head of the wedding feast. They just took it! They simply listened to what Jesus told them to do. 

The servants and their unquestioning obedience is praiseworthy. As servants of Christ, we should do whatever He tells us. We shouldn’t do the bare minimum but we should, in a spiritual sense, fill our jars to the brim. We should live our lives completely dedicated to fulfilling His commands, even if it’s difficult or when it doesn’t make much sense to us. 

No Regrets

No Regrets

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Did you see the candy bar commercial where the tattoo artist was so into her chocolate that she accidentally inked the words “no regerts” onto the arm of the tough, bald guy? When somebody eats something with high calories but that is tasty or stays up too late at our house doing something fun, they might borrow that phrase. There may be some cost involved, but the point is that it was worth it.

Yet, there is really only one area where there can truly be no regrets. There is a word in the New Testament that means “experiencing remorse” (TDNT 589). With this word, there is “the sense that one wishes it could be undone, be very sorry” (BDAG 639).  It is found five times and translated “regret,” “feel remorse,” and “change his mind.” 

  • In the parable of the two sons, one was asked by his father to work in his vineyard. He answers, “I will not,” then “afterward he regretted it and went” (Mat. 21:29). In explaining the parable, Jesus rebukes the chief priests and the elders because they did not feel remorse (regret) for not believing the message of John the Baptist (Mat. 21:32).
  • In Matthew 27:3, Judas felt remorse about betraying Jesus. While he returned the 30 pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, he did not return to Jesus like Peter did. He took his own life. 
  • Paul at first felt regret for causing the Corinthians sorrow, but ultimately he did not regret it. Why? Because he helped them achieve “a repentance without regret” (2 Cor. 7:8,10). 
  • The writer of Hebrews quotes Moses and Samuel to remind us that God “will not change His mind” (7:21). He is perfect and, unlike man, makes no mistake or misstep that he should change it. 

These passages give us some great insight about how we can conduct our lives without regret. First, we will not regret serving our Father, even if it goes against the grain of what we prefer or desire. What we will regret is knowing He wants us to work in His vineyard but letting something, anything, to keep us from it. Alexander Graham Bell is credited with saying, “When one door closes another door opens; but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” True regret is not seeking the open door of service. 

Second, we will not regret the effort and self-denial involved in repentance. It will hurt and cause us sorrow, but it will produce an end we truly want if we are thinking as we should be. That was Paul’s message to Corinth and to us. We cannot let our remorse be so strong that it keeps us, like it kept Judas, from overcoming the overwhelming tendency of guilt which Satan will use to defeat us. 

I don’t suppose any of us make it through this life without thoughts, words, and actions we regret. But, there is a difference between momentary regret and a regret you cannot overcome. Thankfully, God gives us the needed insight and encouragement to break free from the prison of regret. He calls us to a life of no regret. Let us live it! 

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
Weak Is Strong

Weak Is Strong

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

The United States of America has one of the most powerful militaries on earth. Its funding, equipment, and training are second to none. Most countries understand that head-on attacks against the US armed forces are impossible – even our greatest enemies have a healthy fear. That said, asymmetric warfare has thwarted even our great military. Hostile groups with long-obsolete, repurposed equipment have made decisive victory nearly impossible.

Their tactics often involve war crimes/crimes against humanity, so these groups serve as an illustration of a point and nothing more. They will answer to God for their crimes. The point is this: God often displays great power through insignificant, weak people.

God worked through Paul’s weakness to grow the church (II Cor 12.9).
God saved the world as an impoverished person (Matt 8.20).
God designated the poor to great faith and eternal life (Js 2.5).
God included uneducated, blue-collar men in his group of closest followers (Acts 4.13).
God considers service-oriented people to be the most important (Matt 20.26).
God used Job as an example of endurance, proving his power when Job was at his lowest (1.9, 22).

All of us will face issues that are way beyond our power to handle. In those moments, remember that God does incredible things through insignificant people.

The Entertainer And The Executioner

The Entertainer And The Executioner

Neal Pollard

They were born within four days of each other, both on the European continent. Both adored their mothers and resented their drunken fathers. Both grew up knowing real poverty. Both were incredibly intense and ambitious. Both were mesmerizing performers who commanded crowds. Both sported the same, strange mustache and bore a striking resemblance.

One became a comedian who made people laugh. The other became a dictator responsible for the death of millions. Neither were moral giants, but each used their influence for very different ends.

It doesn’t matter where or when one is born. To a certain degree, we do not have to be defined by the home we grew up in. Being poor is not an automatic determiner of either success or failure. Our looks are a neutral commodity. Our talents and opportunities are a blank canvas we choose to decorate as we please.

The parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 is a Divine reminder that we all take what God gives us and decide what we will do with it. Nothing is foreordained or forced upon us. We determine, both by action and inaction, to be a servant or slothful. What we must be aiming for is much greater and higher than earthly ambition, whether to be loved or feared by the world. Our purpose must be to be “a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). The good news is that where, when, and how you were born is a fact, but it does not have to define you. If we empty ourselves of ourselves and let Him fill us, He will define us!

Will You Serve God For Nothing?

Will You Serve God For Nothing?

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Dave Eubank

Recently at the suggestion of some teachers and podcasts I listen to, I took some time and in one setting read through whole books in the Bible. If you haven’t done this I would highly recommend it. Just read through the book not looking for anything or zeroing in on any specific point; just read through the book and let it teach you its main themes and allow it to speak for itself. One of the books I recently read through and want to briefly discuss is the book of JOB. We are very familiar with this book and story and can learn a lot of things from it including sufferings, patience, steadfastness, God’s perspectives, and others. However, I would like to share with you what really stood out and stayed with me as I read through the 42 chapters of this book. Job 1:8-9 says,

Then the Lord said to Satan “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” So, Satan answered the LORD and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?

Right there is the true question: “Will you fear and serve God for nothing.” It is not only a question that Satan asks the Lord referring to Job, but it is also for us today. Satan was assuming that Job would have a transactional relationship with God, that as long as he was doing what was righteous that Job would assume that he has earned his blessings or somehow God is obligated to bless him. Do we fall into this mindset that Satan is stating her is verse 9? Is it easy to fear and serve God while things are going good in our life or for fear of punishment? Do we have this transactional relationship that says I have done all these righteous X’s so I deserve these Y’s (blessings)? Would we serve God if everything (wealth, family, health) in an extremely short period of time was taken from us and we were in the situation Job found himself in? Satan is saying that taking comforts of this life away will push even the strongest to curse God to his face. Satan states this in Ch 1:11 and notice that as early as 2:9 Job’s wife actually uses the same language when she tells Job, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

Sometimes bad things happen because we make bad decisions and we must deal with those consequences. However, Job shows us that sometimes bad things happen outside of our decisions and we do not know all like our Creator GOD. God lays this out in his answer to Job out of the whirlwind in Chapters 38-42 basically stating that, “I created everything and have it all under My control, I AM GOD, even when you don’t realize it and so you must trust Me no matter what circumstances you find yourself in.” In chapter 42 we read exactly what Job did in response to God’s challenge to Job. Now as he repents and fears God he is in dust and ashes. This is the definition of serving God for nothing. Every worldly comfort had been taken from him and he had nothing, not even physical health, and nothing as of yet had been restored to him. But he through great tribulation feared God for nothing except he is God the creator and sustainer of everything.

We do need to serve God just because he is God and the creator of all things but the good news is we don’t serve him for nothing. Read Job 19:25: For I know that my Redeemer lives, and he shall stand at last on the earth; Just as we read Job and see his longing for a mediator between him and God, we now have that through Jesus. God gives us eternal life that can be found in Christ our mediator, not because we deserve it like a transactional agreement but because He is a benevolent, gracious and loving God.

Bring Your Thinking Cap

Bring Your Thinking Cap

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Word

Gary Pollard

Today’s article may be a little chaotic. It’s about something not well-defined or understood, and its solution is unknown to me. This article will hopefully serve as a target; it’d be good to have lots of Christian minds brainstorming solutions to this issue.

Just about everyone’s had THE virus. I’ve had it once for sure, maybe twice. It don’t mess around. I started developing symptoms after recovery that, apparently, quite a few people have developed. It’s commonly called Long Covid or PASC. Symptoms include fatigue, cognitive difficulties, decreased mobility, respiratory and cardiological issues, pain, malaise, and many others (psu.edu). You probably either know someone dealing with this now, or are dealing with it yourself.

Research is not super easy to get ahold of, and what I could find was either low-quality or not peer reviewed. Its existence isn’t really contested, but little is known about its prevalence. Best I could find was that about 43% of those who recover will experience Long Covid. Many haven’t recovered after almost two years!

My concern with this is its potential effect on faith. Things like driving at night, interacting with lots of people, spending time together outside of worship, church events, service projects, teaching/preaching/song leading, evangelism, etc. are part of our Christian life. While some of these can be difficult on a good day, they’re now practically impossible (or significantly more difficult) for people with Long Covid.

The church has always had members with chronic, debilitating diseases. Normally, our shut-ins are a very small percentage of overall membership. With Long Covid often compared to the effects of chemotherapy, this number is likely to grow significantly. If roughly half of our recovered members end up with these long-term effects, how do we address this?

Since it affects both young adults and senior citizens, how do we navigate its impact? What can members who now have Long Covid do to stay active in their churches? While living with a chronic health condition is no cake walk, those of us who do are at least mentally equipped to accept it. Members who enjoyed good health before Long Covid are struggling to adapt to this change.

At some point in the near-ish future, I hope to write an article with potential solutions. It will be geared toward those who’re experiencing major health issues for the first time. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to do a lot of praying, planning, brainstorming, and creative problem solving. Nothing’s too big for God, and we’ll find a solution with his help.

Three Ways Pride Distorts Our Thinking

Three Ways Pride Distorts Our Thinking

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Some people’s sin struggles are evident. If they wrestle with foul language or lying, you can hear it. If they wrestle with immodesty or drunkenness, you can see it. Some spiritual weaknesses, though, are insidiously difficult to see–especially in ourselves. In Luke 9:46-56, in events that follow each other in very short order, the disciples’ struggle with pride is exposed by Jesus. We can understand why they struggled with pride. They were walking with the Messiah! He was training them for a special mission. Now, the only matter for them to settle was how they ranked among each other. Jesus exposes that very mindset in these verses.

PRIDE SEEKS PREEMINENCE (46-48). The disciples argue among themselves about who might be the greatest. Not only is this childish, but it reflects their short memory. They just displayed a deficiency of faith that prevented them from casting out the unclean spirit. Perhaps Peter, James, and John, given privy to the transfiguration, might have felt that if they had been among these other disciples they would have been able to cast it out. We don’t know. All we know is that Jesus rebukes the very idea of the arguing by placing a child in their midst. Children were barely noticed among first-century adults, but Jesus makes paying attention to and ministering to the least of people the mark of greatness. Discipleship is not about glory and visibility. It’s about having our eyes open to the humble and our hearts open to serving them. 

PRIDE SHOWS PREJUDICE (49-50). While some have tried to use these verses to say that there are saved Christians in religious groups outside of the New Testament church, they totally misunderstand Jesus’ point (not to mention, miss the teaching of a great many passages). What was John’s bone of contention? There was a disciple of Jesus who was doing works in His name (acting by His authority; recognizing His identity). They tried to prevent him “because he does not follow along with us” (49). They concluded this person couldn’t be acceptable because he wasn’t accompanying them. Jesus knows this man is on His side, but the disciples’ needed to hear this: “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you” (50). This territorial mentality can creep into our thinking. We should hold hands with all those who are on the Lord’s side, doing the Lord’s work. This is true if it regards the good works of others in the local congregation or if it is area congregations. 

PRIDE SEEKS PUNISHMENT (51-56). Pride shows itself in a very different way shortly after this. Jesus sends some followers on a mission, but they were rejected. James and John’s solution was to exact vengeance on them. They were anxious to call down fire from heaven and consume them. Whatever they expected as Jesus’ reaction, they had to be surprised at His rebuke. He corrects their thinking, saying that He came to this earth to save rather than destroy men’s lives. Jesus’ solution was simply to move on to more receptive hearts (56). Sometimes our impatience with others or disappointment in their displays of unbelief can make us trigger happy. Whether we are indignant on the Lord’s behalf or we feel personally slighted, we need to remember the patient, charitable response Jesus makes to those who, in the moment, refused to receive Him. That patience and kindness may or may not ultimately reach their hearts, but it is the best route to success in trying to both be a disciple and win disciples for Jesus. 

Do a Bible search and see what God says about pride. It’s at the top of the list in those deadly sins of Proverbs 6:16-19, things God says He hates! Both Testaments say that it leads to our downfall (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). So often, we see it as a struggle for those who are already in the body of Christ. I must constantly watch for this self-centered behavior, keeping my focus on other disciples, the lost, the less fortunate and weak, and especially the Lord. Let me remember that it’s all about Him and them, and say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). 

Does God Only Shelter Some In A Storm?

Does God Only Shelter Some In A Storm?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

I’ve heard some say of a house left standing after a tornado or hurricane that God must have spared the structure’s owner from material loss because of their righteousness. But, unfortunately, such statements imply that the neighboring destroyed property belonged to the unrighteous. Yet Jesus said, “for He (God) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5.45, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated). 

Even amongst the destruction, though, if someone is observant enough, he sees what he chooses to call miraculous. However, since a miracle is the suspension of God’s natural laws, we understand that the word “miracle” oft becomes an adjective to describe what defies human comprehension. In reality, laws of nature explain the “skipped” houses or why a decorated Christmas tree can remain amidst a room, missing its walls and a part of its ceiling. 

For example, there can be what scientists call “suction vortices” within tornadoes. Within a more significant tornado, these many vortices move in a looping, cycloid pattern that will hit some things while completely missing others.1 In other words, the hand of God was in the creation of the natural laws resulting in the occasional formation of tornadoes, with their suction vortices, as opposed to directing storms into particular locations.  

But did God originally intend for His natural laws to include such destructive phenomena? Think back to the world God initially created. God called it “very good” (Genesis 1.31). What changed? Humanity used its free moral agency to sin, bringing change to the world. In fact, things got so bad that God destroyed the original world. Peter says, “…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3.5-6). 

Among those mechanisms that God put into place in the world emerging from the flood are the weather patterns that spawn tornadoes and hurricanes. The patient patriarch, Job, observed the following regarding the wisdom known to God: “…He imparted weight to the wind and meted out the waters by measure…He set a limit for the rain and a course for the thunderbolt…He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out” (Job 28.25-27). 

Now, the point of our devotional today is not to increase the misery of those having suffered loss during what insurance companies euphemistically call “acts of God.” Yes, things like tornadoes and hurricanes do arise because of sin. However, it is not a part of the chastisement God sends upon us (cf. Hebrews 12.4ff). So, if you want to see God after a tornado, do not see it in a church building with no roof, but with all its hymnals and pew Bibles still safely secured in the pew racks. That is likely but a side effect of natural law.  

No, look for God in His grace. As Fred Rogers often said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”2 Might I suggest that it is in the helpers that we see the actual hand of God? His Providence works through the people clearing debris, handing out food, and providing shelter to those who have lost everything. These fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6.2). Thus, God does not only shelter some in a storm. He provides for all of the weary through the agency of those whom He made in His image (Genesis 1.26-27).  

Sources Consulted and Cited 

1 Seman, Steven, et al. “Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths.” Tornado Damage, Safety, and Myths | METEO 3: Introductory Meteorology, The Pennsylvania State University, www.e-education.psu.edu/meteo3/l9_p8.html

2 Rogers, Fred. “A Quote by Fred Rogers.” Goodreads, Goodreads, www.goodreads.com/quotes/198594-when-i-was-a-boy-and-i-would-see-scary

Greatest In The Kingdom Of Heaven

Greatest In The Kingdom Of Heaven

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

I stood at the doorway of her humble apartment in a small Kentucky town. This Christian woman in her mid 80s, mother of three and newly-widowed, was adopted by the local church and seen after especially by a son who lived in the same town. I had received a sweet letter from her, expressing her appreciation for the great work being done by especially World Video Bible School. Her former preacher in the 1990s had introduced it to her, and she told me that she gave their DVDs away all the time.

Between the time I received her letter and dropped by her home, I talked to another lady in that same, small congregation. She praised the character and good works of the woman who wrote me the letter. I was told of the various hardships and challenges faced by my penpal. She was raised in religious error, but learned the truth from her husband’s family. The husband never obeyed the gospel and did not encourage her faith. Despite being subject to cruel treatment, she was not only a faithful, submissive wife, but she was full of righteous works. She became a walking Bible, the fruit of tenacious daily Bible study. She has written, supported, and encouraged missionaries all over the world for over 40 years. For decades, she has graded Bible Correspondence Courses

The woman I met had the humility and sweet spirit of a child. She bore the marks of hardship, having undergone hip replacement and other maladies of aging and falls. But the thing that struck me was the twinkle in her eye and the genuine joy she has in being a Christian. As she talked about her life and as I had ultimately heard about her life from a few of her church family members, I could not help but think that this woman has suffered so much physically and emotionally. But you could not tell it from her attitude and disposition. The gentle enthusiasm I first read in her writing translated to a winsome smile and zeal face to face. 

She had been weathered and battered by life, yet she had all the marks of a triumphant overcomer. Still faithful to meet with the saints every time the doors are opened, she lives Christ in her daily life. I could not help but think of the woman Mark tells us about in his gospel, the one who anointed Jesus’ head with “an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard” (14:3). In praising her “good deed” (14:6), Jesus summed it up by saying of her, “She has done what she could” (14:8). No one knows this dear sister across our brotherhood. She’s not an author, public speaker, gospel writer, or appointed church leader. But she epitomizes greatness as defined by Jesus.

I left my visit doing some serious self-examination. How’s my attitude? What am I doing with what God has given me? How am I blessing the lives of others? When others have been around me or speak about me, what characteristics come to mind? Every life is given a variable amount of resources and opportunities (Mat. 25:14-30). We will account for how we used them. Have we tried to tell others about Jesus? Have we reminded others of Jesus? Helen reminded me of my Savior! I left resolved to be more like her, trying to imitate her as she so clearly imitates Him (1 Cor. 11:1)!