More Spiritual Christians?

More Spiritual Christians?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

Galatians 1.6-9 is the key passage of the book. God chose them through grace, but they were abandoning grace for Jewish customs. Paul wrote one of the strongest warnings in all of scripture here — “anyone who modifies Jesus’s teaching will be cursed.” It’s hard for us to let our own baggage go (our worldviews, preferences, past beliefs, or traditions), but God’s feelings about adding to or taking away from his requirements are crystal clear. 

This isn’t the only letter where Paul warns about putting too much stock in traditions. Colossians also addresses this issue pretty clearly, as do sections in I Corinthians and Romans. And it doesn’t matter who’s doing the teaching — even if an angel tries to teach something that modifies God’s plan, they will be cursed. If we view this section rationally, it makes perfect sense. The one who created this plan is the same one who has unlimited power, ability, and intelligence, and who created our planet in a vast universe. Who are we to take issue with anything in God’s word? 

Interestingly, Paul also addressed an issue that has existed since the church was established: Christians comparing themselves to others, or judging another’s level of spirituality. A more spiritual Christian would also observe traditions. The specific application throughout the book (2.3-5, 11-17; 3.11-13; 5.1-6) is that adopting Jewish traditions is required to be right with God. A more modern understanding is that we shouldn’t look down on Christians who don’t follow all of the customs we’ve observed for the last couple of centuries. We must be very careful about making judgments of other Christians based on whether or not they observe our traditions in addition to God’s. Galatians refutes the idea that someone who observes more than what God requires is intrinsically more spiritual. 

“Don’t compare yourself with others. Just look at your own work and see if you’ve done anything to be proud of” (6.4). 

“It doesn’t matter if anyone is circumcised or not. The only thing that matters is this new life we have from God” (6.15).  

Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Motivations For Teaching Difficult Things

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

It becomes clear from reading the second letter to the Corinthians that Paul feels the need to defend himself and his actions among his readers. He feared that he had been misunderstood in his previous work among them (cf. 1:12-14). In fact, it seems as though this is the purpose of the letter (look also at 5:11-12). If you remember from the first letter, he had some pretty challenging and unpopular things to say about how they were behaving. It’s not far-fetched to think that some of them not only would not appreciate what he said, but would attack him as the messenger for saying it. Sometimes, however lovingly and kindly we share the truth, it will offend the hearer who, instead of repenting, tries to undermine the one who said it.  As we read this section, think of Paul as a man, just like his audience, who has feelings, struggles, difficulties, and temptations, too. He also needed them to know that it was because he cared so much about them that he would not “shrink from declaring to [them] anything that was profitable” (cf. Acts 20:20). What drove Paul to minister to the Corinthians? Notice several things he says in 2 Corinthians one.

THE GRACE OF GOD (12)

He would not boast in himself, whether his abilities or knowledge or influence. Those are empty and unsatisfying. His motives were pure and he was helped by a grace he wanted them to appreciate, too. When we understand our need of God’s grace, it will move us to give Him our all in response. 

THE JUDGMENT DAY OF GOD (13-14)

Paul wanted them to be able to legitimately boast together and of one another at “the day of the Lord” (cf. 5:10). The word “boast” in modern English has negative connotations–bragging, arrogance, and sinful pride. Paul wanted to have confidence in them as they faced this Day, as confident as he hoped they were of him in view of it. We should share the whole counsel of God to make sure people are ready for the most important day of all. 

THE PROMISES OF GOD (20)

He shared the positive and negative, the promises and the warnings, because he knew God meant what He said. He would not equivocate or talk out of both sides of his mouth. He was going to give them “the whole purpose of God” (cf. Acts 20:27). He knew God was the supreme promise-keeper (2 Tim. 4:8; 2 Cor. 5:11-14). 

THE GLORY OF GOD (20)

Paul taught them for the glory of God. The Word is God’s. The promises are God’s. The salvation is from God. How silly for the fragile pottery to brag (4:7); the glory belongs to the Potter. Anything worthwhile we accomplish is always because of God. 

THE WORKING OF GOD (21-22)

Paul was moved by the knowledge that God is the one who establishes men (21), sets us apart (21), and gives us His Spirit (22). Knowing this, we should share Him with people so that God can accomplish His work in their lives. 

THE WITNESS OF GOD (23-24)

Wise teachers and preachers will remember that God is watching their work. He can see where no one else can–our hearts and motives. Knowing He knows me inside and out, I will check myself and do His work to bring the joy and strength of the hearers (23-24). 

THE PEOPLE OF GOD (2:1-4)

We should be moved by genuine love and concern for people. Those who share the word should share life with those who receive the word from them. Building relationships, being together in all the ups and downs of life, is what it is all about. It’s hard to imagine staying motivated to share the gospel with people we isolate ourselves from. 

Perhaps there are some preachers and teachers who just love beating up on their listeners (or readers). Motivation is individual to each one (Phil. 1:15-17). I have to believe that every faithful proclaimer wants not only to please God but also help as many people as possible go to heaven. There are so many great reasons why Christians should want to share God’s Word with others. Paul gives us a handful of them here. 

Being Like Your Parents

Being Like Your Parents

Wednesday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Luke Lohden

Have you seen the Progressive commercials with Dr. Rick?  In these commercials, he tries to teach parents how to “un-become” their parents?  For instance, he helps them say the right tech terms, like “hashtag,” or helps them to have airline tickets on their phone, and not paper tickets.  They are really funny.  Do your parents have certain sayings that they say all of the time to you?  Like, “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times,” or how about “money doesn’t grow on trees?”  Or even better, “don’t make me stop this car?”  Our parents tell us things like this to help us.  The truth is, we need to be like our Christian parents, not unlike them.  They have been where we are or where we are heading.  Their advice can prevent us from making serious mistakes.  

According to many surveys, about 70% of Christian students leave the church during college.  According to a recent study, the reasons are because they had no strong Biblical foundation,  lack of social opportunities outside of worship service, the anti-Christian views present at universities, and the lack of other Christian friends on campus.  Because of these potential problems, our parents play an important role in our Christian faith and our future walk with God.  

How do You stay faithful to God and obey your parents through your teen years? According to Ephesians 6:1-3, honoring your father and mother is very important. These verses say, “Children obey your parents in the Lord for this is right. Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment, that it may be well with you and you may live long on the Earth.” According to Exodus 20:12, it states, “Honor your father and your mother that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Proverbs 22:6 also has some information about children obeying their parents. It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from.” Proverbs 29:15 also says, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.”  This verse means that children and teens need guidance.  If they don’t have guidance, they will turn away from Christ.  

If we honor our father and mother and do all that we are told by them, we will live long on this Earth.   We could be going through a stage where we are defiant and not wanting to do what our parents tell us.  We’ve got to learn to listen to them even though we might not like what they decide all the time.  We finally understand, maybe even in later years, that our parents have rules in place to protect us as well as help us.  In order to follow God and live long on this Earth, we have to do all that is expected by them and do it as best as we can.  We are never going to be perfect, but we have to give it our best.  We know that our parents want what is best for us and they want us to go to Heaven.  We need to do more than just obey our parents and honor them.  We also have to continue trying to follow God’s Commandments, read the Bible, and tell others about Jesus. 

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Facebook Fact-Checking

Facebook Fact-Checking

Thursday Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

 
Back in 2016 Facebook created their “fact-checking program.” The focus of the program is to “address viral misinformation and false claims, particularly those that have the potential to mislead or harm.” Since 2016 hundreds of thousands of posts have been flagged as “misleading” or containing “false information.” While this program has been met with mixed reviews and opinions, there is a valuable lesson we can learn from fact-checking and that is to, well, check your facts.
 
Powerade is the sports players elixir. It’s refreshing, it replenishes electrolytes, and gives you 34 grams of beautiful sugar. It’s got potassium, sodium, and 35 grams of carbs. But Blue Powerade bears a striking resemblance to Windex. At a glance this window cleaner may seem like Powerade. It’s blue, you could easily put it in an empty Powerade bottle and call it Powerade, but it isn’t. Windex is Windex, no matter how you try and label it. Many times something may quack like a duck and walk like a duck, but it isn’t a duck.
 
Galatians 1:6 says, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”
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Paul warns us that as Christians we will encounter misinformation. Those who spread it may have a way with words. What they teach is convincing and appealing. But upon closer examination, their Powerade is actually Windex. These people will claim that you can receive salvation with just a prayer, that God approves of homosexuality, that every person has their own truth. We need to start Bible fact-checking the claims and teachings of those around us.
 
So many Christians are led astray by false teaching. It’s our job to test what is taught with scripture because on the day of judgment each person will be held accountable. Be noble-minded and search the scriptures. Don’t drink the Windex just because it’s in a Powerade bottle. Look at the content and compare it to God’s Word.
 
As Christians we must keep the church pure and free of misinformation. Let’s all start fact-checking our spiritual sources using God’s infallible Word.
The Prime Objective

The Prime Objective

Such powerful words describe it.  The words “convert,” “save,” “restore,” “recover,” and the like depict the job God left Christians to do (cf. Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:26; Js. 5:19-20; etc.).  The awesome business of God’s people is to be builders in the kingdom upon a foundation originating in eternity (1 Cor. 3:9-15).  Each child of God is a private engaged in spiritual warfare against a tactician only God has the power to defeat (Eph. 6:10ff).

There is ample reason to be filled with excitement and dread at the task before us!  God has entrusted the business of snatching souls out of eternal fire and transferring people out of darkness into His marvelous light to us earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).  The moment we come out of the waters of baptism, we rise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).  That life entails culling out negative things, bad habits, poor attitudes, old ways of living.  Yet, it also calls for actions and ambitions that a non-Christian could not begin to comprehend.  The sign of genuine faith taken root is the desire to share the good news we ourselves have learned.

Soul-winning is the frontline focus of the family of God.  All else that we do should be an extension or support of this primary work.  Benevolence, though done simply for its own sake, can be a springboard of evangelistic opportunity.  Fellowship is designed to not only build up the saints, but be an atmosphere — be it worship or fellowship outside the corporate assemblies— that honors God and creates hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Non-Christians who come to our assemblies can then believe (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23-24).  They share our company, see the light of Christ in us, and want the joy and peace that the world cannot provide (John 14:27; Mat. 5:16).  

Everywhere we go, mingling in groups and having various associations, there are opportunities.  There is that person who seems to stand out from others who are more frivolously engaged in life.  There is the one who, when others have long shut their ears to truth, is open-minded enough and respectful enough of truth to believe and accept the Bible.  A song that is used in many soul-winning campaigns is Lead Me To Some Soul Today.  God is not going to “lay” anything miraculously on our heart, leading us through some direct operation to some particular person or to say some particular thing.  Yet, providentially, He can open doors that leads us to find the one in search of God’s way.  Our active desire should be to cultivate our hunger and optimism for this great, primary work of the church.

With all else to distract us or compete with our attention and affection, may we never forget the prime objective! We are saved to save (2 Tim. 2:2). Find the searcher and lead the lost! It’s why we’re here. 

We Don’t Know How To Pray

We Don’t Know How To Pray

Wednesday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

When I take the time to pause and think about who God is, it blows my mind. He’s all powerful, loving, righteous, faithful, and just. When we look at His character and the perfection that surrounds Him, it can almost seem overwhelming. A God with that much power and glory takes the time to listen to me. He hears the prayers that each of us pray.

If you’re like me, this can be very intimidating. Every time we bow our heads and pray, we are talking to the creator of worlds, the one that spoke everything we see and know into existence. We pause and reach out to God, and He listens to us. The creator listens to the cries of His creation. What a wonderful God we serve.

On our own we could never reach out to God and build our relationship with Him. We lie, cheat, steal, and lust after that which is darkness. God is the Father of light, and darkness cannot be found near Him. But God gave us a way to be justified, a way to petition Him and strengthen our Father to Son relationship.

Have you ever struggled with prayer? Maybe we fail to understand the tremendous blessing that it is. Maybe we fail to set time aside each day to talk with God. Maybe we feel like we aren’t holy enough to pray to God. Or maybe we feel like we don’t know how to pray.

Many Christians already know that it’s important to pray. We’ve heard that prayer is vital in the Christian walk. Thing is, we don’t know how to pray. And there are three main reasons why this is the case.

We are weak. Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” Paul uses the word “likewise” which tells us that what he is about to say is tied to what he has just mentioned. And so we must ask, what weakness is Paul referring to? In context, the earth is made weak because of sin (18-22). We ourselves have been made weak because of sin (23-25). Therefore since we are not strong, the Spirit helps us pray to God, even in our current state of weakness.

We pray for the wrong things. Continuing on in verse 26, “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought…” James tells us something similar in 4:3. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” We have a tendency to pray for the wrong things, and this ties directly into our weakness. We are weak because we pray for the wrong things. We say things like, “take this problem away” instead of saying “help me to use this problem to grow my faith.” We pray for things like, money, physical blessings, and selfish desires. We don’t know how to pray.
We confuse our will with God’s, and expect Him to change His mind and agree with us. We fail to see God’s perfect plan. We are short-sighted and selfish in our prayers. Because of this, we are weak and don’t know how to pray.

We use the wrong words. The last part of verse 26 says, “but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” “Intercede”, “to plead on behalf of another.” We may be weak, we may ask for the wrong things, but the Spirit pleads to God on our behalf. It should be a comfort knowing that one of the Godhead helps us in our prayers to God. Paul gives the Spirit a unique description. He says the Spirit “intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” When I hear the word “groan” I think of the sound I make when I eat too much food. Or the sound someone makes when their football team fumbles the ball. This word groan is far from this. It means “an involuntary expression of great concern or stress.” The concern that the Spirit has for us is so strong that it cannot be described with words. When we go before the throne of God, we are using the wrong words. There is no way that we can express to God what we feel. The Spirit then intercedes (pleads) on our behalf, expressing so great a concern, that words cannot be used to describe it.

We may not know how to pray, but God in His perfect love has provided for His Children. What an awesome God we serve.

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Why I Attend Wednesday Night Church Services

Why I Attend Wednesday Night Church Services

Neal Pollard

  • I need the fellowship of Christian family in the middle of a week spent exposed to the world.
  • I draw strength from the teaching of God’s Word and the comments others make on the subject being studied.
  • Others need my encouragement and influence, and my presence can be so faith-building to them.
  • Bible class teachers have taken precious time to prepare and deliver their material.
  • I believe God is pleased with my making such a commitment and a sacrifice, though it’s so little compared to all that He has done for me.
  • It builds my interest in spiritual things.
  • I believe it helps contribute to the overall strength and influence of the local church.
  • It is an affirmation of the eldership’s wisdom to have such classes in the first place, where they seek to help give me spiritual food.
  • I live by the philosophy that I make time for what is most important and valuable.
  • My family is guided by my leadership and priorities.
  • I live in a nation that allows me to freely assemble to build and express my faith, and I do not want to take that for granted.
  • I have so many great memories of Wednesdays, and I continue to make them.
  • Though I have often arrived tired and frazzled, I have almost always left rejuvenated and rejoicing.
  • I want to.

What would you add?

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What To See When False Prophets Speak

What To See When False Prophets Speak

Neal Pollard

Peter has a sobering warning for the church, writing, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Pet. 2:1). He warns them about the model, the methods, and the message of these men. The counterparts of these modern messengers is the false prophets of old.

Jeremiah lived at a time when such prophets flourished, and the result of their work was the destruction of the people. Jeremiah 23 is a graphic depiction of what God helped Jeremiah see as he looked at and listened to these sinful seers. Notice that in Jeremiah 23:9-40), he saw:

  • Tears (9-10)–Jeremiah was heartbroken, trembling, and overcome, because he knew their message was different from God’s Word and it was taking people off course. 
  • Pollution (11-12)–The Lord found their way wickedness, and this pollution made for a slippery path that would make them fall in calamity and punishment. 
  • Offensiveness (13-14)–They looked to the wrong spiritual source and it led the people of God to commit horrible depravity. 
  • Tragedy (15)–Their message was going to cause their own spiritual sickness and death.
  • Emptiness (16-18)–The message is from their own imagination and not from the Lord’s mouth, so they tell those who hate God they’ll have peace and those who walk in stubbornness that everything will be fine.
  • Storms (19-20)–The storm is the tempest of God’s wrath upon the heads of these false messengers. 
  • Audacity (21-25)–They ran, but God didn’t send them; They prophesied, but God didn’t speak to them; God was right there listening when they said, “I had a dream, I had a dream!”
  • Heart Trouble (26-27)–The prophets had spiritual heart trouble, and their message was loved by people with heart trouble. It resulted in both of them forgetting God. 
  • Straw (28)–Just as straw and grain are totally different things, so is God’s message and their false message. 
  • Judgment (29-40)–God’s Word is like fire and a hammer. He is against their Word and against them for misusing their speaking abilities and leading His people astray. They don’t furnish the people with “the slightest benefit.” They cause the people to forget what truth is.  The end result is tragedy. 

So many can have a message that sounds good, makes one feel good, but does no good! In fact, their message contradicts what God said in His Word. As we grow our Bible knowledge, it will help us see these messengers and their messages for what they are. God’s Word is a blessing to us, both now and eternally. But, measure their message against the Master’s. Embrace only the words that are from Him! Reject the words that come from them!

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“Immediately”

“Immediately”

Neal Pollard

The astute reader of the book of Mark finds the word 40 times in 39 verses (the Greek word most often translated “immediately” in Mark is actually found 44 times). It is a key word found consistently throughout the gospel but especially in the first six chapters. Usually, the word is used to quantify the time between Jesus performing a miracle and it taking effect. The point seems to be to show the power and Divine nature of Jesus. It is also a thread that runs throughout the book to highlight key thoughts and main ideas in this second book of the New Testament. The word is used to highlight the Father’s affirmation of Christ following His baptism (1:10), Jesus’ journey into the wilderness to triumph over the Devil’s temptations (1:12), the disciples’ decision to leave their occupation to follow Jesus (1:18,20), Jesus’ entering the synagogue to show unparalleled authority and power (1:21), the news and fame that followed Christ’s teaching and healing (1:28), and the immediate response of the one healed by Jesus–the first of many uses of the word “immediately” to highlight such (1:29-30). The proof for Jesus’ identity was immediate. The effect of Jesus’ miracles was immediate. The impact of Jesus’ miracles and teachings on friend and foe was immediate. Mark’s use of this word seems to indicate how overwhelming and unmistakable the proof of Jesus was.

This is not to say that one should rashly decide about the Lord. The book of Mark is part of God’s way to convince man about who Jesus is. Take the time to read it and learn of Him. Like the other three gospels, Mark contains the miracles, teaching, claims, and events in Christ’s life at the end of which one must ultimately make a decision concerning who He is. Remember, though, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Weigh the evidence, and then decide. Follow the example of so many in the book of Mark and let the power and person of Jesus have an immediate impact on your life and your soul.

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Communication Landmines

Communication Landmines

Neal Pollard

Paul writes two letters of instruction to Timothy, the preacher at Ephesus. As his father in the faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:18), Paul wanted the younger man endowed with the wisdom and courage to be God’s man.  Timothy would face pressures and temptations from many different directions. The apostle’s words also provide some common sense to help him do the sometimes difficult task of preaching and ministry.

In a letter full of the theme of godliness, 1 Timothy, Paul gives him some intriguing encouragement in the sixth chapter. He says, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (6:3-5). In this brief admonition, he gives Timothy several tips to help him be a useful communicator of God’s truth. He urges Timothy to avoid:

  • Compromise. Not only here, but throughout the letter, Paul urges Timothy to teach the pure doctrine of Christ, those sound words and that godly doctrine. If we bow to pressures and change the revealed word of Christ, we become deadly communicators.
  • Conceit. Ironically, the conceited often look down upon others. Yet, Paul ties the arrogance to ignorance (“understands nothing”). When we encounter one who condescendingly communicates, we are prone to tune them out even if they are telling the truth. It is incongruous to have a pompous preacher speak of the lowly Jesus. It’s a credibility killer.
  • Controversy. We live in the age of controversy. It is splashed all over the traditional media and social media. It is often manufactured, and it is the mark of a morbid (literally, “sick”) mind. The controversialist will be found at the heart of disputes, ever seeking to dig up something, hash and rehash it, and keep it going. We can be accused of that for simply trying to communicate God’s will, especially when unpopular, but some are never far from contention. It is characteristic of them.
  • Constant friction. This is listed last among several other results of controversy, along with envy, strife, abusive language, and evil suspicions. Have you ever been around someone who keeps up an atmosphere of tension? The chip is always on the shoulder. Their communication is always confrontational. It appeals to the depraved and deprived, according to Paul.

Paul was so bold that he would die for preaching the truth (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-8). Yet, he urged Timothy to be peaceable, kind, adept, patient, and gentle when communicating it (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Is it possible to courageously stand with the Christ but do so using the precise scalpel of Scripture (Heb. 4:12) rather than the reckless explosives of excess? Yes, and each of us must predetermine that we will do so no matter how others act and react.

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