Categories
endurance faithfulness persecution preaching Uncategorized

ATTACKING THOSE WHO SAVE OTHERS

Neal Pollard

It’s an unconscionable thought! Who would try to hurt and oppose those dedicated to saving lives? Places like Afghanistan seem more than a world away from us, where this week a yet-to-be-identified terrorist group conducted a suicide attack in Jalalabad that killed two and injured 14. While that sadly is a relatively small and minor attack in this war-torn region, it was the target that was so outrageously newsworthy. It was perpetrated against the international Save The Children organization. Volunteers and workers were there to provide aid and assistance to that society’s most vulnerable members, and they were attacked. How does this happen?

In Matthew 23:35 (cf. Luke 11:51), Jesus condemns the Pharisees as the murderers of God’s godly men from Abel to Zechariah. Essentially, Jesus was presenting a roll call of the righteous who were attacked because of their faithfulness. In one of Stephen’s final moments, he preached, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become” (Acts 7:52). Both Old and New Testaments reveal the Maker’s messengers who were attacked while trying to save others. The proverbial response of the hearers was to “shoot the messenger” (cf. Heb. 11:36-38).

Growing up a preacher’s kid, I saw my dad encounter some who attacked the messenger. Dad has always been a model of courage for me, willing to teach and preach even unpopular, but needed, subjects. Consequently, he endured both frontal and sneak attacks. Everyone who has sought to declare “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27) has some appreciation for Paul’s warning that some “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

How one responds to such attacks is crucial! In the words to Timothy, Paul contrasts the attacker with the faithful proclaimer. He says, “But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). We’re taught “patient enduring” (2 Cor. 1:6; 2 Tim. 2:24), “not returning evil for evil or insult for insult” (1 Pet. 3:9), “bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14; cf. 12:17-21), and “do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Mat. 5:39).

As eternal aid workers, we operate by a different, higher set of rules (2 Cor. 10:4). We entrust ourselves to the One who will give us ultimate victory. Meanwhile, we cannot give up our cause—no matter what the threat or danger. Like Jesus, let us keep entrusting ourselves to Him who judges righteously (1 Pet. 2:23)!

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Categories
compromise faith faithfulness Uncategorized unity

The Difference Between Unity And Union

Neal Pollard

When I was a little boy, I heard my dad contrast these two ideas, union and unity, with an interesting illustration.  He said, “You can tie two cats’ tails together and hang them over a clothes line. You may have union, but you do not have unity.”  Recently, political pundits have been making a somewhat similar contrast concerning the European Union. They are bound together economically, socially, and geographically, but there is at times a lack of unity.  These ties have not led to effective communication and information sharing in dealing with terrorist threats. Distrust, the ambitions of individual EU countries, and autonomous business dealings with nations outside its union all contribute to an uneasy synthesis between themselves.

There is great misunderstanding in the religious world and, at times, in the Lord’s church about what biblical unity is.  While there are those who believe that unity demands agreement on matters that ultimately are not established and determined in Scripture (how/if Bible classes are divided, whether to extend an invitation after a sermon, whether or not to meet on Sunday night, order of worship services—i.e., Lord’s Supper or sermon first, etc.), there are many others who believe that unity is possible where union is really what is attempted.

Scripture is the basis of unity! Jesus defined the oneness He wanted His followers to have as reflective of the unity He shares with the Father (John 17:20-21). Through His inspired writer, Paul, He emphasizes the importance of unity, saying that we are to “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Unity is clearly defined as existing within a diligence to preserve the truth of “one body…one spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism…one God and Father of all…” (Eph. 4:4-6). The New Testament tells us in specific terms what’s involved in each of these. Attempting to be tied and bound to those who reject or attempt to change what Scripture says about these is not biblical unity. It amounts to tying together what’s incompatible and incongruous. That’s just inconceivable!

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Categories
fear morality Uncategorized

We Could Use More Fear

Neal Pollard

Maybe you are like me and reach a threshold where you just don’t want to see any more alerts, the latest, in-depth reports about terrorism and senseless violence and murder, and warnings of looming threats. At some point, most of us reach a saturation point. Many wish to avoid the news altogether for its depressing gloom and despair. I don’t believe we need to manufacture or reinforce that kind of fear. There is plenty of that.

However, there is a significant sense, globally, nationally, locally, and personally, where needed fear is insufficient or absent.

  • Fear That Shows Itself In Service To God (Josh. 24:14).
  • Fear That Motivates Obedience (1 Sam. 11:7).
  • Fear That Opens Our Minds To His Blessings (1 Sam. 12:24).
  • Fear That Ushers Praise  To God (Ps. 22:23).
  • Fear That Brings Wisdom (Ps. 111:10).
  • Fear That Results In Trusting God (Ps. 115:11).
  • Fear That Gives Rise To Blessings (Ps. 115:13).
  • Fear That Causes Knowledge (Pr. 1:7).
  • Fear That Leads To Hating Evil (Pr. 8:13).
  • Fear That Produces Confidence (Pr. 14:26).
  • Fear That Yields Life (Pr. 14:27).
  • Fear That Prompts A Departure From Evil (Pr. 16:6).
  • Fear That Focuses Us On Our Purpose On Earth (Ec. 12:13).
  • Fear That Makes All Ultimately Well For The “Fearers” (Ec. 8:12).
  • Fear That Proves Us Followers Of The Mind Of Christ (Is. 11:2-3).
  • Fear That Precipitates Stability In Our Times (Is. 33:6).
  • Fear That Makes God Show Mercy (Jer. 26:19).
  • Fear That Helps The Church Grow (Acts 9:31).

(There are literally dozens of other passages that speak of the benefits of this godly fear)

A lack of godly, reverent fear of God generates more than deadly attacks on innocent, defenseless people all over the world; it leads to people’s callous, wanton ungodliness that causes mothers to slaughter their unborn children, that hardens people in lifestyles of sin, sexual immorality, rank atheism and moral bankruptcy. The kind of fear that the Bible urges in every genre of Bible literature (history, poetry, prophesy, gospels, and epistles) is the pathway not only to peace, security, and joy on this earth, but eternal peace, security, and joy!  History is rife with examples of what happens in the presence and absence of such fear in the lives of individuals and whole societies.

In practical terms, that starts with you and me demonstrating and declaring the urgent necessity of such fear. It may mean watching less TV or less scouring of internet reports on the latest security threats and investing in more devotional time building dependency upon God to help us through these perilous times. Refocus and retrain your heart regarding the object of your fear! It is truly the gateway to fighting the fears that appear to plague humanity’s souls at the current hour.

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Categories
faithfulness persecution perseverance suffering

Disturbed

Neal Pollard

The ISIS beheadings so frequently in the news and readily available on the internet are terrifying to behold and consider.  If terrorism is, as the Mac Dictionary defines it, “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” such would be terrorist activity.  The latest spectacle, involving 21 “Coptic Christians” (Egyptian Orthodox religion), seems to show the Islamic State organization is eager to isolate and persecute those seeking to follow Christ.

Do you ever wonder if there will come a day where New Testament Christians in this country may face the threat of death for standing up for Christ?  It has certainly happened to God’s people in the past, especially when the church was first established.  We read about the persecution that started with Stephen then extended to the saints at Jerusalem in the book of Acts.  We read of individuals like Paul, who suffered for Christ on many occasions (2 Cor. 11).  Then, there are the statements made to encourage Christians who might be rattled or scared at the prospect of such treatment.  Twice, writing the Thessalonians, Paul was concerned they would be disturbed by trouble (1 Th. 3:3; 2 Th. 2:2).  He wrote about how persecution was, at times, inevitable (Ph. 1:29; 1 Th. 3:4; 2 Tim. 2:3; 1 Pt. 3:14).  Of course, Christ showed us His way includes suffering (1 Pt. 2:21ff).

The Bible also gives us great encouragement in the face of the disturbing prospect of suffering for our faith.  Consider a few highlights:

  • We can rejoice if counted worthy of suffering for Christ (Acts 5:41).
  • Those who suffer with Him will be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).
  • Suffering can give one a clearer perspective and priority (Phil. 3:8).
  • Suffering is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that we’ll be counted worthy of His Kingdom (2 Th. 1:5).
  • It finds favor with God if we are faithful through our sufferings (1 Pt. 2:19).
  • It is better to suffer for doing right than doing wrong (1 Pt. 4:17).
  • We can entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Pt. 4:19).
  • The God of all grace will comfort those who suffer (1 Pt. 5:10).

I don’t think any of us relish or welcome the thought of suffering under any circumstances.  Yet, God has communicated these truths to us to help us decide in these potential trials.  Perhaps it will help us be less disturbed and more determined to be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).

Categories
Current Events omniscience

God Knows Where They Are

 

Neal Pollard

At a preachers’ meeting I attended today, a brother led us in prayer specifically about the men, women, and children who were onboard the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 as well as their families.  While there have certainly been many other prayers for these folks, this brother said something that should have struck me before today.  He prayed, “God, we know that you already know exactly where they are, but please help those searching for them to find them.”  Has that thought truly struck us?  Our omniscient God knows the precise point on this globe where those 239 passengers are.  If we let that sink in, it reminds us of a much further-reaching point.  God knows everything about everyone of us, where we go and what we do.

Scripture teaches this many times over, in both testaments.  2 Chronicles 16:9 tells us the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth.  “He sees all the sons of men…all the inhabitants of the earth” (Ps. 33:13-14).  “His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men” (Ps. 11:4). Hebrews 4:13 affirms that “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.”  The mysteries of the ages that have long confounded our greatest minds could not be more plainly known to Him.  Whether or not the massive coordinated efforts of nations, militaries, technology, and resources solve this enigma is yet to be seen, but God knows the answer to this as readily as He does the greatest conundrums with which man has ever been confronted.

One day, God will cleave the skies and bring all unsolved mysteries to an end, with every secret, cloak and dagger, and clandestine activity which may have perplexed men for centuries.  He will bring these secrets into the judgment (Rom. 2:16).  While there is so much that we may not know, let us rest assured that we stand beneath the gaze of the All-Seeing eyes of God.

Categories
apostasy Current Events

Flight 370 And Falling Away

Neal Pollard

We are now several days into an unspeakable tragedy that is equally mysterious.  Despite sophisticated tracking methods and multi-national radar, a Malaysia Airlines jet disappeared without warning or a trace on Saturday, March 8, 2014. The disappearance of Flight 370 is an enigma because “there are only a handful of scenarios that could explain how a usually reliable wide-body jet could seemingly vanish from a clear sky with no distress call and no obvious debris field” (Tracy Connor, NBC News online).  At this point, all experts have are theories—mechanical malfunction, bomb or explosion, hijacking, pilot error or sabotage (ibid.).  None of the theories is entirely satisfactory, however, and friends and family from 14 nations find no consolation or closure from this heretofore unsolved mystery.

Though it fails to make the news or be as dramatic, there are mysterious disappearances continuously occurring.  It is usually possible to physically find the missing, but it can be just as hard to understand exactly why they came to be “missing” all the same.  There are multiple causes, but that does little to bring consolation or satisfaction.  I am referring to Christians who fall away from faithfulness.

Some fall away because of structural problems, a failure on the part of the congregation or some negative influence within it (cf. Mat. 18:6).  Bad example, being a stumbling block, and thoughtless speech are ways we can contribute to a Christian falling.  Some fall away because of something that “explodes” or “blows up” in their lives—financially, relationally, emotionally, or the like (Luke 8:13).  Some fall away because their faith is hijacked, maybe by a false teacher or even a well-meaning family member who is bothered by their “changing religions” (cf. Gal. 1:6-9; 3:1).  Some simply fall away because of “pilot error”—their own failure to successfully navigate the difficulties of living the Christian life (Luke 8:14; Heb. 6:4-6).  No matter how it happens, it should be a source of sadness and concern to those of us still striving to walk in the light. More than that, we must become part of the search and rescue team.  Galatians 6:1-2 and James 5:19-20 are just two of the passages that should convict and challenge us in this work.  Not even the loss of a single person should be considered acceptable loss.  Not with so much at stake and not given the high price Jesus paid for each and every soul!