Categories
peace

A PROVEN RECIPE FOR PEACE

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Peace conjures a number of different images in our minds; from hippies to nature’s beauty to inner calm to lack of anxiety. Nearly every group of people in the world craves peace – no rational human being wants to live in constant upheaval. We all want to have peace, but our world somehow is still getting worse and worse. Why is this? The prince of this world is not a being who desires peace (II Corinthians 4.4; Ephesians 2.2; John 12.31). His very existence is dedicated to bringing down anyone who believes in God (I Peter 5:8) and he has no care or concern for the fate or well-being of anyone on this earth. Total, lasting world peace will never be possible as long as time continues (see Romans 8.18-25: sin caused the earth to be subjected to futility). 

Total, lasting world peace may not be possible in this life, but this does not mean the world cannot experience any peace at all. How can we experience peace in our lives? 

Firstly, it has to come from us. The world will never act in a way that brings peace. Anytime the world wishes to better its conditions, it incites civil unrest, riots, protests, and other not-very-peaceful behaviors. Christians, however, are called to be different. I Timothy 2.1ff tells us that praying to God on behalf of all men, for kings, and all who are in authority will allow us to lead quiet and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity. We can have peace by being obedient to government authorities – even if we do not agree with them politically – because God put them in place (Romans 13). If we want peace, we have to show that peace by how we live. Since man is naturally attracted to peace, our quiet, godly lives will draw others to Christ. 

Secondly, even if our world is in chaos we can have inner peace. Philippians was written to break up a nasty fight between Euodia and Syntyche. To have the “peace beyond what we can understand,” they had to rejoice in the Lord, be reasonable, not be anxious, and reach out to God for their every need. The same applies to us today! Do we get our joy from God or from worldly pursuits? Are we worried about meeting personal needs or do we rely on God (see Phil. 4.19; Matt. 6.25)? Do we try to fix our own problems, relying on our own strength, or do we place them in God’s hands and work with His guidance and providence? The Christian life is not easy, nor is it always peaceful, but the inner peace that a faithful Christian experiences, knowing that their name is in the book of life and that nothing in this short life can disrupt God’s love for them, makes every struggle in this life worth the pain. 

If we want peace, we have to be that peace. We have to live peaceful lives. We have to submit to governing authorities (as long as it is within the parameters of godliness). We have to be unified as a church. We have to look to God for all of our needs. We have to trust that He will take care of us, even if that isn’t in this life. If we can do these things, we will have peace.

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Categories
authority church church function church organization

God’s “House-Law”

Wednesday’s Column: “Third’s Words”

Gary Pollard

Every home has some kind of system in place to keep order. Maybe you were told to take your shoes off at the door, keep your elbows off the table, make your bed in the morning, or brush your teeth more than twice a month. Every home is different and the expectations for conduct and cleanliness vary accordingly. However your home was structured, you were at least bound to a set of rules in some form.

God’s house is no different. I’m not just talking about the building we meet in for worship, but that anytime His family offers up worship to Him we are expected to follow His rules. I Timothy 1.4 talks about God’s “house-law” (often mistranslated “stewardship” or “godly edification”). The word is οικονομία (oikonomia), combining οίκος (house) with νόμος (law). What does this mean in context? In I Timothy Paul publicly berates two members who were teaching “myths and endless genealogies which do not promote the house law of God in faith” (1.3, 4; 20).

If any teaching goes against what God has told us He wants, it’s a violation of His house-law. We understand this when it comes to daily life outside of religious activities. If we break the law we are held accountable to it. We understand that violating the laws our governments put in place to maintain order and promote justice carries consequences. Some, though, do not act as if the same applies to God’s people in a religious context.

God’s house-law is more specifically defined in I Timothy 2.1-8. Anytime and anywhere Christian men and women offer worship together, God expects qualified Christian men to lead. This is made clear with the phrase, “…in every place” (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

Not just any man can lead, though! He must be someone who is able to lift holy hands (that is, he is pure in life and can offer worship without the stain of sin), he must be cool-headed, and he can’t be unstable in his faith (2.8). God’s house, God’s rules.

God expects women to avoid drawing undue attention to themselves (2.9, 10) and are to allow godly men to lead them in worship (2.11-14). His house, his rules.

In all of my vast wisdom and experience as a child, I didn’t always agree with or like all of my family’s house rules. Probably every teen and their unfortunate parents experience this. My feelings about a house rule did not alter its validity in any way. It was not my house so I was not in a position to change or violate the rules. Trying to do so was not only futile but often carried consequences.

God’s design for His church is not acceptable to the secular world. In their disagreement or downright hostility toward it they have pushed many churches into changing God’s house-laws. This doesn’t fly in the legal world, the home, or in any setting where rules were set in place by those most qualified to make them. Why would it work with God?

We may not always understand why God made the laws that He did, but this is where the faith aspect of 1 Timothy 1.4 comes into play. We have to ask ourselves, “Do we trust that God knew what He was doing when He made these laws, and do I really want to challenge Him on the rules He made for His own family?” At the end of the day we must remember that in God’s house we follow God’s laws. Many of the problems facing the church in 2020 can be solved simply by accepting this fact! If we do – as in any family – we will not only have harmony in the church, but a permanent, peaceful home with God after this life.

Job 38.4-7

Categories
Bible Bible study revelation submission Uncategorized

STUBBORN TRUTHS

Neal Pollard

—And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery (Mat. 19:9).
—Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
—For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error (Rom. 1:26-27).
—And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all…There is one body (Eph.1:22-23; 4:4).
—And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:18-19).
—A woman is not allowed to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet (1 Tim. 2:11-14).

Passages like these are hotly debated, denied, and derided by those who either cast them against other Scripture or subjugate them to current cultural expectations. Those who desire to accept verses like those above as simple truth are often thought to be ignorant or, worse, dangerous.

The same book reveals the person and sacrifice of Jesus. It reveals the nature and attributes of God. It tells us where we came from and where we are going. It speaks of grace and faith. We accept these truths at face value. But when we come to passages that go against the grain of popular opinion (in or out of religion), cultural mores, or religious orthodoxy, we somehow attempt to say they do not say what they say they say. Jehoiakim’s scribe’s knife and his brazier fire did not eliminate truth (Jer. 36:23). It actually intensified the message against him (36:29ff). The number of academic degrees, religious followers, or oratorical skill will not change the truth of Scripture. It is what it is. Our role is to humbly submit to it or forever beat ourselves against it. May we love and revere God enough to always do the former.

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Categories
authority obedience submission Uncategorized

Doing It Our Way Instead Of God’s Way

Neal Pollard

I have pondered lately about why there is such a growing tendency to overlook the plainly revealed will and mind of God in favor of what either lacks authority or violates His Word. It would be impossible to be exhaustive, lacking the ability to read the mind, judge the motives, and know the heart. However, in a general way, here are a few observations.

  • Feelings have taken priority over reason. Personal preference and one’s inner voice becomes the guiding star for one’s behavior and concepts, and truth gets dethroned. Hearts are hardened against revealed truth and decisions are made based on personal sentiment. In an attempt to avoid hurting feelings, escape ostracism, preserve an image with the world, and have its good will, individuals become their own judges, juries, and pardoners.
  • We have witnessed people of influence “get away with it.” For years, our national heroes and leaders, athletes, politicians, and celebrities, have “gotten away with it” (see both presidential candidates). If society’s elite and influential can do wrong and get away with it, why shouldn’t everyone else?
  • God does not practice instant retribution in the Christian Age. God does not execute immediate punishment upon the wicked or wrongdoer today. “He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:31). The fact that some do not get “caught” in sin in this life does not mean God won’t exact justice upon the impenitent ultimately, but because He does not immediately execute sentence against an evil work we can conclude He will not at all (cf. Ecc. 8:11).
  • Man has developed an insatiable hunger for instant gratification. Pleasure and passion, for many, have become stronger determining influences than eternity and judgment. When the flesh is in control, spiritual things are crowded out of the mind. Jesus says that one can only submit to one master, never two (Mat. 6:24). Flesh and spirit are warring parties (Rom. 8:4-8). Gratifying the flesh can kill concern over the consequence of misdeeds.

We cannot do it alone, without God. The fact is, we must totally surrender to Him. His guidance must be embraced. His will must rule. His strength must be accepted. Truly making Him Lord means making His Word the governing influence of our hearts and lives. Such a humble, honest, and heartfelt submission will help us defeat a mindset set on minding our thoughts and ways over His (see Isa. 55:8-9).

Grandpas' Bibles
My grandpas’ Bibles (Mom’s Dad’s on the left, Dad’s Dad’s on the right). 

 

 

 

Categories
balance extremism Uncategorized

KEEP YOURSELF ON THE LEVEL

Neal Pollard

The word is maligned by some, especially by those to the right of biblical truth who believe any attempt at it is “soft.”  The word is misunderstood by others, especially by those who believe avoiding difficult, hard truths constitutes the concept.  Yet, in this age of extremism, the need for it has never been greater.  While balance takes in a great many things regarding both one’s life and teaching, many seem to have forgotten the importance of pursuing it in following Christ.

Balance is threatened when we equate our opinions, judgment, proclivities, and personal beliefs with divine truth.  This is especially of great concern when those with heightened influence among us press these matters to the point that they are portrayed as matters of faith and fellowship.  Several issues of late have emerged as such tests–that dating is sinful, that homeschooling is the only biblical means of educating our children, that having a special program or even Bible classes for youth in a congregation is wrong, and the list seems to keep growing.  Often, the old “anti” argument is made: “Where is your authority for that?”  Yet, like our non-cooperation brethren, there is a glaring lack of understanding about how God authorizes (especially as regards “generic” and “specific” authority).  Can we be opposed to dating, public schooling, homeschooling, and the like?  Certainly.  Can we be divisive or draw lines over them in the Lord’s body?  Never!  God is as condemning of law-making as law-breaking (Rev. 22:18-19; Mat. 23:2ff).

Balance is threatened through compromise with the world.  Balance is not blending in with the world, as a chameleon in its environment.  Balance is certainly not conformity (cf. Rom. 12:2).  Some preachers never touch hot-button-issues like modesty, marriage, divorce, and remarriage, instrumental music, the sinfulness of denominationalism, and more through a misguided sense that such avoidance is balance.  While one must avoid making any of these subject “hobby horses” that are ridden endlessly and exclusively, these are all biblical matters part of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).  Often, they are avoiding out of fear or favor.  Such is not balance!

Extremism, especially noised angrily and vociferously, looks more like the culture than the Christ.  Let those of us who teach, write, and otherwise publicly communicate beware of the higher standard to which the Lord holds us (Js. 3:1ff).  Let us stand firmly and courageously upon the foundation of Christ while being careful not to press what He has not taught or suppress what He has.

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Categories
Bear Valley church of Christ church church (nature) church function church growth church of Christ Uncategorized

What Kind Of Church Do We Want To Be?

Neal Pollard

V–ictorious? Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 Jn. 5:4). No coach hopes to win without first planning and architecting. The blueprints have already been put in place (Rom. 6:17), but we must work the plans to be a success in God’s eyes!

I–nvolved? Do we want to merely keep house and meet together each week? That is not New Testament Christianity (cf. Acts 2:46). They took Christianity out of the church building’s doors. They were tangibly involved in doing God’s work. Will be be?

S–erving? This is a self-serving world. Many seem intent to climb over whoever is in their way to the top. Jesus’ religion runs contrary to that (John 13:12-17), and He calls us to follow His example. A serving church is a living, thriving, arriving, surviving church.

I–mpactful? Do our neighbors know who we are? What about the surrounding communities? What about the farthest reaches of our world? Don’t you want to be part of a church putting a Christ-sized impression on those around us?

O–bedient? We have one authority (Col. 3:16-17; John 14:1-6; Acts 4:12). There are potential masters, but only one will lead us to heaven. A church that steps outside His “lines” will become eternally out of bounds. Those intent on obeying Him will be saved (Heb. 5:9).

N–urturing? Don’t we want to be part of a people with an infinitely more profound purpose than that found by the patrons and workers portrayed in the old sitcom Cheers? We want everyone to know our name and be glad that we came, but we should also want a place where we can grow in every right, positive way. This must be a church that cares about all, whatever our age, background, interests, income, or education!

A–ble?  Do we want to focus on our liabilities or, through Christ, our limitless resources? We have so much to do, but we’ve been given so much to do it. Don’t we want to be part of a “can do” church, doing with our might what our hands find to do?

R–eaping? If we are a working church, we will see results. They will come through baptisms, programs of work, outreaches, visitation, stronger fellowship, missionary success, and much, much more. As my good friend, Cy Stafford, says, “What God controls, grows.” The law of sowing and reaping is positive, too (Gal. 6:8).

Y–earning? A church that is alive and growing is full of holy desire, enthusiasm, and a confidence that we can do all things through the Christ alive within us (Phil. 4:13). Our greatest desires will be to do spiritual things to the glory of God.

How does a church become a visionary church? We must be intentional! What do we intend to do?  With God’s help, that is up to us!

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Categories
authority law and order police Uncategorized

Misguided Malice

Neal Pollard

I served the Livingston Police Department in Sumter County, Alabama, as a reserve officer for two years. I had a uniform and a badge, though the service I rendered was as chaplain.  The relationship between law enforcement and citizens there was very positive, but I remember talking with officers about the media bias and agenda of liberal politicians they witnessed locally and nationally. This was nearly a quarter century ago, long before the advent of social media and nearly omnipresent camera phones and videos which can be deceptive both for what they show and what they do not. In light of baffling events in Dallas, Texas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the last few weeks, as well as the inane calls to defund police, it is hard not to think that huge numbers of people have been duped by political rhetoric and a thoughtless mob mentality. While no profession can be completely free of corrupt individuals (who should be found out and prosecuted with full vigor), the existence of law enforcement and peace officers is a vital cog in the wheel of civilization and order in society. Eliminating these agencies is tantamount to removing a fence keeping a pack of bloodthirsty pit bulls from a neighboring playground full of children.

It is a characteristic of worldliness to disdain authority.  The Christian’s attitude and response is to be different. To Christians living in a world with not a fraction of the liberties we enjoy in society today, Paul instructed, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake” (Rom. 13:1-5). There are sobering, inescapable truths here which should be revered by those who are servants of God. God is mentioned five times in these verses, and He is intrinsically tied to earthly authorities. They are from God (1), established by God (1), an ordinance of God (2), and ministers of God (4).

In 2 Timothy 3, Paul tells us the earmarks of difficult times. So many of these traits are evidenced in the growing anarchy of the present day—revilers, unloving, irreconcilable, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, and reckless (1-4).  In addition to such attitudes and actions being sinful, they are too often misguided. Police are symbols of law and order, and they are easy targets for those who commit or are effected by lawlessness. It seems that more of our passion and animus should be directed toward criminals and less toward our crime stoppers.

Let us take to heart Peter’s counsel to persecuted Christians and “submit [ourselves] for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right [we] may silence the ignorance of foolish men” (1 Pet. 2:13-15). If we can rationalize and argue away this Bible truth, why can we not do the same with any other timeless principle of Scripture? May God help us all to hold tightly to the Light of the Bible, that the world may see how it should respond in this troublesome world.

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Categories
potential

“Not Yet, Not Yet”

Neal Pollard

American born painter, James Whistler, was as controversial as he was competent.  The artist best known for Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (or, Whistler’s Mother), the famous painting depicting an aging woman in side profile wearing a bonnet, was as known for his arrogance and egotism (Peters, Lisa N. James McNeill Whistler. Smithmark: New York, 1996. p. 4).  On one occasion, Whistler was told that a shipment of blank canvasses he had ordered was lost in the mail.  He was asked if they were of any value and he replied, “Not yet, not yet” (Today In the Word, 12/3/92).

We are born into this world innocent and with endless potential.  Some are born with many more advantages and opportunities than others.  All of us who live to maturity leave this life, whatever we achieve, stained by sin having disappointed or transgressed against others.  Yet, of what value will we be to those we meet?  What to our families, our friends, the church, and the world?  It depends upon what we allow God to do with our lives.  He can take the most mundane, ordinary material and work a masterpiece through it.  If we allow Him to work on the canvas of our lives, we will become infinitely better parents, spouses, and Christians.  But, how can we become masterpieces in the hands of the Master?

  • Keep your heart soft (Eph. 4:32).
  • Have hands that are willing (Neh. 2:18).
  • Have feet that are ready (Eph. 6:15).
  • Maintain an open mind (1 Chr. 28:9).
  • Turn your face toward Him (cf. Job 22:26).
  • Strengthen your back (cf. Nah. 2:1).

Such is the possibility for everyone who submits themselves a blank canvas to be worked upon by the Master Artist.  He is not arrogant.  He is perfect.  It is not a boast for Him to declare His ability to transform the dullness of our lives into the brilliance produced by the influence of His Word and will!  You are not yet what you could be.  When all is said and done, will you have been what you could be?  The decision is made if you let Christ work upon you.

Whistler’s Mother (1871)
Categories
woman

BEAUTY MARKS

Neal Pollard
God made women as one of His crowning achievements of beauty, and I am blessed to be married to one of His finest samples of this. They are called the “fairer sex” for obvious reasons. This was obvious from the first generation of man (Gen. 2:22-23). While Solomon extolled the physical beauty of his wife in Song of Solomon and King Lemuel’s mother extolled the intellectual beauty of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, Paul, a single man, and Peter, a married man, are led in their writing by the Holy Spirit to identify three distinct beauty marks of God’s ideal woman.
“Good Works” (1 Tim. 2:10). This mark is set in contrast with the immodesty of ungodliness in 1 Timothy 2:9. Whether overdressing or under dressing, the ungodly woman accentuates her outward self. This is not true beauty. Paul says being adorned with good works covers her with true loveliness. When a Christian lady is engrossed in good works, visiting, teaching ladies and children in Bible classes, soul-winning, or as context emphasizes (2:15), fulfilling her role if possible in the home raising children, she is a rare beauty. There are countless good works in which she can be engaged for Christ and the church. In doing these, she reveals remarkable beauty.
“A Gentle And Quiet Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4). In 1 Peter, Peter makes some statements quite similar to Paul’s. Notice first that Peter, like Paul, preaches a message that could not be more different from the world’s sermon. The world tells a woman to allow herself to be a sexual object for men, to flaunt what she has, and to be provocative in her dress and manner. Peter tells her to accentuate chaste conduct and fear (3:2) and the “hidden person of the heart” (3:4). This is “incorruptible beauty,” literally not subject to decay. One thing I have observed through the years is that the godly woman grows more beautiful with age, the wrinkles and other marks of age not marring her appearance one bit. Her godly disposition, disciplined righteousness, and spiritual greatness beautify her in a way Cover Girl or Oil of Olay absolutely could not! Her friendliness and tranquility attract in an ageless way.
“Holy And Trusting” (1 Pet. 3:5). Peter mentions another beauty mark in his description of God’s stunning woman. She is like Sarah and other Old Testament women of righteousness. She is holy, meaning she lives near to God and far from the world. What truer beauty is there? She hopes for God, suggesting that she counts on Him and puts her confidence in Him. The world’s ideal woman boasts of her self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-making. Selfish persons of either gender are decidedly unattractive. But, the Christian woman appears beautiful through her dependency upon God and His ways.
Paul reminds us that despite our “beauty products” and cosmetic surgeries, the outward person is running down and wearing out (2 Cor. 4:16). There is nothing wrong with keeping in good physical shape (1 Tim. 4:8) or taking care of our physical appearance. However, let God’s woman be convinced that the things mentioned by Paul and Peter in these verses cause her to win the beauty contest in which God the Lord is the judge.

Categories
authority God obedience

GOD HATES SHORTS!



Neal Pollard

 You may be thinking that the title is presumptuous, opinionated, and even out of line.  Let me disclaim what follows by asserting that God does not hate all shorts.  He does, however, hate the following types of shorts.

But not these. 🙂



GOD HATES SHORTCUTS.  At least, He hates humanly devised shortcuts for which He has given no authorization.  Man has devised shortcuts to salvation that cut out divine commands.  He has made shortcuts in ethics and morality to justify and rationalize behavior God condemns.  We should examine such “shortcuts” carefully to make sure they are not detours off of the narrow way.

GOD HATES SHORTCHANGES.  In Malachi 3:8-10, God condemns His people for “robbing Him” in their giving.  They did not give with appropriate gratitude and generosity.  Those who fail to put Him first (cf. Matt. 6:33) are shortchanging God of the time, talents, resources, and service He deserves.  

GOD HATES SHORTSIGHTEDNESS.  When we make decisions based on instant gratification or immediate benefits without giving thought to longterm implications, we often make a mess of our lives.  This is true of church plans, the person we choose to marry, unbiblical changes to the church and teaching to attract the unchurched, and the like.  Certainly, one can be too deliberate and methodical to the point of lethargy and apathy.  Yet, neither is it proper to leap before adequately looking.

GOD HATES SHORTCOMINGS.  God’s hatred for sin is so great that He sent Christ to the cross as payment for it.  Sin is falling short of God’s mark.  The sobering thing is that all of us come short of God’s glory as the result of our sin (Rom. 3:23).  The great news is that while God hates shortcomings, He deeply loves shortcomers.  That’s also why He sent Jesus to die for us.

God hates these shorts, but He has provided an alternative regarding all of them.  By full and trusting obedience, we avoid shortcuts.  By recognizing our debt and feeling heartfelt gratitude to God for paying it, we avoid shortchanging Him.  By growing in wisdom and Christlikeness, we avoid shortsightedness.  By walking in the light as children of God, we avoid the eternal ramifications of our shortcomings.  That’s because God loves us!