God Doesn’t Hate You

God Doesn’t Hate You

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

“Who does he think he is?”

It’s easy to imagine how the grumbling began among Korah and other religious leaders of the Israelites. Eventually 250 joined and as the grumbling grew so did Korah’s confidence. It all came to a head as the mob approached Moses and the heated accusations start. Korah cries out, “We’re all just as righteous as you are! Why do you stand before us and bark orders?” 

Moses does something unexpected and falls face down. He tells them, “In the morning the Lord will show you all who is holy.” How did those wicked Levites sleep that night? Were they confident that God would deliver them from their “tyrannical” ruler? Maybe they tossed and turned as all sleep escaped them. The following day we read in Numbers 16.32-35, 

“and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!” And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

This wasn’t the end of the line for all of Korah’s family though. We read in Numbers 26.9-11, 

“…Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, chosen from the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, when the fire devoured the 250 men, and they became a warning. But the sons of Korah did not die.”

Some of Korah’s family live on. Now, how would many people feel about God if they had watched their family and possessions swallowed up by the earth? A horrific event like that might make them bitter, angry, and traumatized. What a cruel and selfish God. 

Interestingly enough, the sons of Korah are responsible for writing a few of the Psalms. They aren’t laments reflecting back on how God had treated them unfairly. In fact, it seems as though they had their eyes opened to the character of God. He is holy and they are in awe of their awesome Father. 

Here are a few segments taken from Psalm 84, written by the sons of Korah. 

Verses 1-2 

“How lovely is your dwelling place,
    Lord Almighty!

My soul yearns, even faints,
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
    for the living God.”

Verse 4 

“Blessed are those who dwell in your house; 
    they are ever praising you.”

Really? Blessed? Ever praising Him? 

Verse 10 

“Better is one day in your courts
    than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
    than dwell in the tents of the wicked.”

The language does not reflect a family who has witnessed tragedy brought on by the hand of God. It seems they were spared because the Lord saw something inside them that wasn’t found in the hearts of the others. A heart willing to repent and live differently. God knew they could handle rebuke and had a sincere desire to live righteously. It’s been speculated that perhaps they were too young to understand why their father and the other Levitical leaders were outraged. Maybe they thought they were a part of a just cause? After all, these evil men were in a position of authority. They were their teachers. How could 250 religious rulers be wrong? Whatever the reasons, God proved to be right again. 

There are people in this world who don’t understand the righteousness of the Lord. This lack of knowledge leads to terrible—often costly, decisions, and lifestyles. 

If you ever find yourself questioning God and His Law we should look in rather than up for who’s to blame. History proves time and again that God is never the issue— we are. Sin, injustice, unfairness, and evil are human inventions. God has given us His son as the solution and in Him we find answers. Those answers bring us satisfaction and peace every time. 

Water well dating back to the early 1800s. Location, Valhermoso Springs hotel. 
Lacey’s Spring, Alabama 
Study Is Serious

Study Is Serious

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
Lies closest to the truth do the most damage. It can be easy to deceive the average person because many simply will not question what they hear or read. Whether the subject is politics, science, religion, or urban legends, many have opinions based primarily on a cursory understanding of the subject matter.
 
In most areas of life, this lack of investigation or study is benign. Our eternity is not remotely impacted by (erroneously) thinking that Kalashnikov’s rifles are inherently inaccurate.
 
When it comes to our faith, however, we are left without excuse. Christians have an obligation to investigate what is taught (Acts 17). In order to effectively do so, we must have the desire to become serious bible students.
 
Depth of study is not just for theologians! The ability to analyze and accurately draw meaning from God’s word is something each Christian should pursue. Phrases like, “That’s too smart for me,” or, “Not everyone’s a preacher,” or, “It’s all Greek to me,” or any other excuse we may use will not fly at judgment.
 
The Spirit expects us to be knowledgeable enough in His words that we could teach on the subject (Hebrews 5.12). Teachers are proficient or expert in their subjects, not just vaguely familiar with them.
 
A great place to start in one’s journey to proficiency is to take the responsibility of learning seriously. We expect those who work with nuclear power to have some knowledge in their field because of the risk potential. With the Bible, souls and eternal destinations are at stake; if we appreciate this, it should drive us to become dedicated students of the word.
 
HOW TO TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS

HOW TO TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS

Neal Pollard

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway wrote a fascinating article about the perennially successful head basketball coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He called the piece, “The Five Pillars of Popovich.” Gregg Popovich, who has led the Texas team to five NBA championships in a little over 20 years, is the epitome of steady in a league notorious for constant change. Boudway laments that Popovich wouldn’t actually cite his own pillars of success, but the thoroughly researched column definitely exposes the principles that have made this legendary coach tick with exquisite precision. Those five pillars, in order, are:

  • Own your luck. That is, be modest, humble, and don’t try to take credit for things you didn’t do.
  • Do your work. The same tenacious ethic that made him way more of a player than he should have been has translated into his incredible success as a coach.
  • Unleash your anger (strategically). Know when (and how) to get angry, channeling your passion and conviction into others.
  • Widen your world. Always be a learner, and inspire others to do the same.
  • Know your people. Build relationships, taking time to really know the people in your circle of influence. Former player Will Perdue articulates what so many say of the coach, saying, “I was kind of amazed by how much he wanted to know about you as an individual… He saw you as a human being first and a basketball player second.” In Pop’s own words to Sports Illustrated in 2013: “Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them. And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other. Then they start to feel a responsibility toward each other. Then they want to do for each other.”

(Bloomberg Businessweek article)

We would modify and adapt the wording of some of the pillars, but the principles are unmistakably sound. When it comes to spiritual leadership, whether in the home or the church, these qualities are powerfully attractive.

Great leaders work hard to give others the credit and, most of all, God the praise. The goal is more important than the glory (Eph. 3:20-21).

Great leaders will not ask others to do what they won’t do (Mat. 23:3-4). They exemplify what they expect (Heb. 13:7).

Great leaders get the difference between the “big stuff” and the “small stuff.” Spiritual wisdom helps them channel their passion nobly. They reserve emotion for the eternal and temperance for the temporary.

Great leaders are learners, growers, and improvers. They hate complacency and disdain settling. Nowhere do they demonstrate this more than their pursuit of sacred truth, as consummate Bible students (2 Pet. 3:18).

Great leaders truly know those whom they lead. Assumptions, perceptions, prejudices, and appearances hamstring and even sabotage leaders. There is no substitute for loving people, genuinely caring about and being intimately involved in the lives of those whom they lead (John 10:1ff).

People are looking for leaders like this. They will follow them to the ends of the earth and, consequently, to heaven! None of these qualities necessitates a Ph.D. or a million dollars. They simply require dedication and discipleship! May God raise up more men who have the will and want to be successful leaders for Him!raburntrip-gunnison-9-21-07069

Teachers’ Aids

Teachers’ Aids

Neal Pollard

Several of our classes have assistants to the Bible class teacher.  She (or perhaps in select cases “he”) serves in a support role, helping students do handwork, find Bible verses, or occasionally keep order.  These are vital roles, and often a teacher’s aid later actually becomes a teacher.  Teachers’ aids are part of a great team and education system that benefits everyone in the classroom.

There is a constant, pressing need for more teachers’ aids.  I don’t mean in the actual classroom during the “Bible class hour.”  These aids are needed Sunday afternoons, late Wednesdays, Saturday afternoons, and/or opportune moments between these times.  These aids have even more power than those helping the teacher in the classroom.  They are the parents and care-givers of the students.  There are several ways they can “aid” the teachers who put in hours of preparation time and tons of energy and emotion into the task of teaching.

Aid teachers by making sure your children do their homework.  Most teachers give homework, memory work or activity sheets.  This is a vital supplement to the actual lesson taught in class.  When children come to class with their homework done, teachers are elated and made to feel that their efforts are appreciated.  They feel that their students take the class as seriously as they do.

Aid teachers by asking about what they have learned.  Ask your children what they talked about in class that day.  Ask them to review as much as they can.  Ask them what they learned and how they can make application from the class.  What better topic of conversation can parents and children discuss on the way home from services?

Aid teachers by making sure they feel appreciated.  One way to do this is by making sure you practice the first two suggestions.  However, having the child send a thank you note or by personally thanking your child’s teacher, you are aiding through the means of encouragement.  Everyone likes to feel appreciated.  Teachers are no different.

The qualifications are simple enough.  To be this type of teacher’s aid, simply do all you can to partner with the efforts of your children’s teachers.  Your child, your home, and your child’s teacher all will be blessed by it.

teacher-talking-with-students

WHY WE ARE TEMPTED NOT TO TEACH TRUTH

WHY WE ARE TEMPTED NOT TO TEACH TRUTH

Neal Pollard

Most preachers know the unpleasant burden of having to preach on difficult subjects. There are some who, whether they find it unpleasant or not, are unpleasant in their demeanor and fully ready to frequently preach on moral, doctrinal, ethical, and other sin-related issues. However, it is distasteful business to most men who stand before congregations or sit before individuals to preach and teach the Word. What are reasons why we may be tempted not to teach truth?
1) Fear of repercussions. This is not said with cynicism or judgement of men’s motives and hearts, but for most of us there is usually fear of unwelcome consequences from preaching on a difficult subject. We do not want to offend people or their sensitivities. We do not want to cross people of influence who might encourage criticism or discontent against us personally. We do not want to see angry or hurt faces.
2) An overreaction to issue-oriented preachers. Most of us can think of a preacher or preachers who seemingly cannot stand before an audience without mounting their familiar hobby horse. Some have a stable of such stallions and a field of such fillies. Because we do not want to be that guy, we may be tempted to avoid difficult, thorny subjects.
3) Not being fully convinced that it’s truth themselves. I am convinced there are preachers who do not believe the truth on certain subjects, but they know the leadership or some in the membership do. So, they avoid preaching those subjects. If questioned on this, they can point to their lessons and defend themselves by saying they have not advocated error on a particular matter. Further investigation would reveal their silence on the matter altogether.
4) An assumption that people already know the truth on a subject. Without proper vigilance and attention to balanced preaching and teaching, this is inevitable. Especially if many in the audience grew up in the church and older members remember certain subjects being regularly addressed in their lifetime, they may not feel a sense of urgency that such subjects be periodically visited. We can raise an entire generation, assuming they believe what we came to believe through studying and hearing these matters preached. This assumption is both faulty and false.
Ephesians 4:15 and Colossians 4:6 are beacons and guides that determine how we preach. Acts 20:27 guides us as to what we preach. Fear is not an excuse for omitting certain subjects from our sermon repertoires (cf. Rev. 21:8). An overreaction that causes us to avoid all controversial, “hard” sermons is in itself an extreme (cf. Josh. 1:7). One not convinced about truth owes it to themselves and their hearers to stop preaching until they get that resolved (cf. Jas. 3:1). Assuming people know and understand the truth on a subject can make us poor stewards of the high charge we have as preachers and teachers (cf. 1 Cor. 9:16). Let us be transparently kind, caring, and concerned for people when we stand before them to teach and preach. Yet, let us have a righteous boldness and unwavering trust in the Lord to declare the whole truth so as to please Him.

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In loving consideration of my three most favorite preachers in the world!

Traits Of A False Teacher

Traits Of A False Teacher

Neal Pollard

John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7). The particular deceiver in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself. There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth of Christ and about Him. Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known.

  • They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). They distort what grace is, making it a blanket that hides blatant, willful sin, lust, and materialism. Some rationalize and condone the practice of sin, with the false assurance that God’s grace will cover it without an abhorrence of sin and genuine repentance.
  • They cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11). Superficial comfort is given to people in their sin. How many preachers, rather than confronting sin, tell people they’re OK?
  • They overthrow the faith of people (2 Tim. 2:18). Teaching which distorts or waters down the potency of scripture is to faith what a virus is to the immune system. False teaching destroys people’s faith in God.
  • They teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). If it contradicts or nullifies revealed truth, it is of man rather than God. Looking at Christendom today, so much of what is widely embraced and assumed to be true are blatant departures from the Bible.
  • They cover up their true intentions (Matt. 7:15). Jude describes the various motives of false teachers. Some do so for the sake of being accepted. Others do it for illicit gain. Some do so out of an arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, they usually insist they are trying to help people get closer to God. Jesus insists that they deliberately hide their agenda.
  • They are well-liked (Luke 6:26). Few preachers relish offending people or upsetting them. Yet, preaching the whole counsel of God means that, sometimes, some will not like it. Preachers and teachers should proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but truth taught will sometimes offend no matter how pleasantly and gently it is delivered. Those who compromise truth to placate their hearers may have their acceptance, but God will reject them.
  • They secretly introduce their teaching (2 Pet. 2:1). Why? Were they to publicly proclaim such ideas, they would be exposed. Their ideas can only survive if spread to weak-faith individuals who are not so discerning in more intimate settings. Truth is not afraid of inspection. Error grows in darkness rather than “Sonlight.”
  • They are destined for eternal torment (Rev. 20:10). No matter what success they achieve in this life, there will be an eternity to pay for it. Take soberly the warning of James 3:1.

Preachers (and teachers), have backbone. Preach the truth, even if it is difficult and opposed. Have faith. Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all. Have conviction. Do not let circumstance determine content (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

Jehoshaphat’s People

Jehoshaphat’s People

Neal Pollard

One of the last great periods of spiritual revival in Judah’s history before Babylonian Captivity occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat.  This king is praised for seeking God, following His commandments, and not acting like Israel (2 Ch. 17:3-4). Jehoshaphat was greatly blessed by these decisions, he took pride in the Lord’s ways and sought to eradicate idolatry (5-6).  In the third year of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent his officials, the priests, and the Levites throughout Judah.  What we read in 2 Chronicles 17:9 is exemplary for us today.

  • They “taught.”  Men of varying backgrounds, abilities, personalities, and occupations united in the valuable enterprise of teaching. In all, 16 men are named as those who were tasked with this important job. Whatever we don’t know about them, we do know they were teachers.  Their work was so important that God saw fit to include them by name in His Book!  Certainly He still holds knowledgeable, diligent teachers in high regard today.  What a thrill it must be for Him to see His children willing and able to teach (cf. 1 Pe. 3:14-15). 
  • They taught “in Judah…among the people.” What was Judah? It was the place where God’s people resided. Strong churches have good teachers teaching them.  There is a resounding benefit when people get together and are subjected to healthy, beneficial teaching.  As it was then, so it is now.
  • They taught in Judah “having the book of the law of the Lord with them.” Jehoshaphat wanted to ensure the spiritual literacy of his subjects, knowing God wanted that, too. God still longs for His people to know, show, and grow (2 Pe. 3:18). Too often, our teaching can lack a biblical focus.  We do not need more “what I thinks” and “what happened to me’s.” We need more rich teaching from “the book of the law of the Lord.”

Despite some later foolish and even sinful choices, Jehoshaphat was on target to send teachers for Judah’s benefit.  In the end, he instituted needed, helpful reforms, and relied on God in prayer.  He fell short, but perhaps it was his anchor in the law of God that kept him from drifting away from Him.  Our hope and future is tied to how faithfully we follow God, but we must know what God wants to do that.  And we can only know what God wants by knowing His Word. God bless the teachers that help us to do just that!