The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

The Lone Look Into The Window Of Jesus’ Childhood

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Apparently, mankind has been curious about Jesus’ childhood and has desired to “fill in the blanks” concerning His temperament, personality, and activities during those formidable years. Most famously, the apocryphal (literally, “hidden writings,” not claiming or meeting the test of inspiration) “Gospel of Thomas” writes detailed, lengthy accounts of what Jesus did and how Jesus was as a boy. Mary Jane Chaignot summarizes this book, saying, “The gospel portrays Jesus as already endowed with special powers, but still having the mind of a child – a child who didn’t always use those powers wisely” (reference). Truly, a reading of this “gospel” (you can find the entire text: here) contradicts the idea of a sinlessly perfect Savior who could be our substitute and is at odds with the little we do see in the inspired writings of the gospels. It reflects humanity’s tendency to make God in his own image (see Psalm 50:21). Having said that, we benefit from what Luke is led to share with us from an incident when Jesus is twelve years old (2:42). “At the age of 12 a boy was prepared for his entry to the religious community which took place when he was 13” (Marshall, NIGTC, 126).

HE WAS FAITHFULLY TRAINED BY HIS PARENTS (Luke 2:41-42)

Luke reveals another fact consistent with what we’ve already seen from Joseph and Mary. They were faithfully obedient to the Law’s demands and commands. Every year, they went to the Passover feast (41). Did you know the entire nation of Israel neglected to properly observe the Passover from the days of Samuel to the time of King Josiah (2 Kings 23:21-23)? That means that such spiritual greats as David, Solomon, and Hezekiah failed in this regard during their illustrious reigns. Jesus’ parents made sure He was there every appointed time. That’s where we find Him in this account. By application, what a lesson for us as parents interested in the proper training of our children. At its best, this is difficult as we compete with the world’s message and appeal. We cannot afford to lose ground by keeping them from the fellowship of God’s people. Joseph and Mary were stewards of a precious soul. 

HE WAS ENGROSSED IN LEARNING GOD’S WORD (43-47)

Jesus obviously did not restrict His study of Scripture to the “assemblies,” though. His family stayed the prescribed time in Jerusalem for the feast (seven days, according to Exo. 12:15), but Jesus, unencumbered with the time concerns of adults, stays behind (43)–not to play or get into mischief, but to sit in the temple among the teachers listening to them and asking them questions (46). His level of comprehension and depth of explanation amazed these experts on the Law of Moses, the best of the best (47). Seeing the spiritual focus of twelve-year-old Jesus, I am convicted to push myself to more intensely long for the nourishment of God’s Word (1 Tim. 4:6; 1 Pet. 2:2). 

HE WAS IN SUBJECTION TO HIS PARENTS (48-51)

Luke tells us of the distress His family felt when they discovered He was not in the caravan of their relatives and other fellow-pilgrims making the long, arduous journey back to Nazareth. They go back and search for Jesus for three days before finding Him in the temple (44-46). Anyone who has even briefly lost their children at the mall or left them at the church building can well imagine what Joseph and Mary must have felt. This special child with which they were entrusted is lost! Where did He sleep those few nights He was alone? How early did He arrive and how late did He stay? When His parents do find Him, they find Him content and apparently unaware that they were looking for Him. His answer perplexes them, that He was being about His Father’s business. They felt mistreated, but nothing in Jesus’ reply demonstrates disrespect or dishonor. Luke reinforces this both with the statement of fact, that “He continued in subjection to them,” and the statement about His character (52). The One who would later demonstrate such amazing preaching and power was properly preparing Himself. That preparation included being what He should be in the home. 

HE WAS GROWING IN EVERY GOOD WAY (52)

There are biblical statements which are incredibly comprehensive. The five fundamental demonstrations of nature, time, force, motion, space, and matter, are revealed in the first verse of the Bible. Here, the four areas of human development, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social, are evident in the life of young Jesus. He “kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (52).  Parents, this teaches us about the responsibility we have to encourage the balanced development of our children. We cannot afford to neglect any of these areas. Do not downplay or downgrade the importance of learning and an education which does not come at the expense of faith. Help them to take care of their physical bodies, with proper nutrition, exercise, and teaching them to work and play. Make sure they are socially well-adjusted, not just with peers but also those older and younger than them–able to properly interact with strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Most of all, strive to develop their knowledge of the Bible and faith in the God who loves them. It’s a difficult balancing act, but it can be done! Like Jesus, our children need to grow in every good way!

Actions Of A Worthy Christian

Actions Of A Worthy Christian

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

His name is Luke Aikins, and he is known as the first man to ever jump out of a plane at 25,000 feet with no parachute and walk away without a scratch. Luke trained for two years in order to pull the stunt off without dying. To pull this off, he would be jumping with nothing more than a helmet, an oxygen tank, and a GPS to help guide him into a net. 

This net was over 1000 feet wide and 1000 feet long. It was stretched between 4 cranes and looked no bigger than a dime from 25k feet. And so, after years of training and planning, he successfully pulled off the highest jump from a plane with no parachute, and survived. 

He told reporters that the only reason he did it was because he felt qualified to perform it. Since the age of 16 he has jumped out of a plane over 18 thousand times. In the past he was a safety instructor and felt like he was worthy to attempt such a daring jump. 

Jesus tells us that if we want to be worthy, there are some actions that we must perform. Matthew 10:37-38 says, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

If we want to be considered worthy by Christ he tells us that we must:

  • Love Him over anything else
  • Take up our cross (sacrifice self)
  • Follow Him. 

If we do these things we will be WORTHY. This word is ”hagios,” and it is the same word used by Paul to the church at Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:12; 2 Th. 1:5,11). When we look at what Paul tells this church we notice that the Thessalonians were more than willing to take up their cross, and sacrifice everything for Christ. This is why they were called worthy. 

As Christians, we should want nothing more than for God to see us as worthy. If God sees us as having worth, then He calls us into His own kingdom and glory. 

To be called worthy by God should be the goal of each and every one of us. So the question we must ask ourselves, are we willing to do what it takes to be called worthy? 

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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Make My Day

Make My Day

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Conditioned response describes a person’s reaction to stimuli or situations. Those of you who watch The Office are probably already thinking about Jim Halpert’s famous prank on Dwight involving Altoids.

Conditioned response is also used in defense training. It’s developed through training and repetition. With enough preparation, a person can automatically respond to life-threatening situations with optimum safety and precision, regardless of inevitable panic. It’s basically autopilot for extreme situations.

God expects us to develop a conditioned response, too. He described it (through Paul) in I Corinthians 4.11-13.

Our conditioned response to physical beatings: nothing (4.11). Paul was punched a few times and likely did nothing in retaliation. Context reinforces this understanding of his silence on the subject.

Our conditioned response to being insulted should be to compliment the offender (4.12). If not verbally, we should mentally wish them only the best and mean it.

Our conditioned response to harassment should be acceptance with patience (4.12). Our conditioned response to character defamation should be gentle appeal (4.13).

This doesn’t come naturally at all. We’re taught to stand up for ourselves and not let people run over us! There’s a time and place for self-defense, but those times are, thankfully, quite rare.

What better way to show we genuinely love people than instinctively responding the way Paul did? Jesus made that a part of who He was, and we get eternal life because of it. We can actually help others find eternal life by instinctively reacting with love!

My First Sermon

My First Sermon

Neal Pollard

My dad was holding a gospel meeting somewhere in the Carolinas and he asked me to preach the Sunday evening sermon of the week he was gone. It was April 12, 1987, and I was a Junior at Bradwell Institute (high school) in Hinesville, Georgia. He gave me one of his sermons and I basically, with little change, got up and preached it. I remember being scared out of my mind. I had no formal training (which is obvious from the grammar and pronunciation). Afterward, the congregation flooded me with compliments, which says everything about them and nothing about my abilities. But, it encouraged me. It helped solidify my desire to preach and became the foundation for my willingness to go preach around the area over the next year-plus (preaching in such places as Glennville, Jesup, and Brunswick, GA). It led me to choose Faulkner University, to major in Bible and meet great preachers and teachers like Wendell Winkler, Ken Randolph, Carl Cheatham, Leonard Johnson, Eris Benson, Donnie Hilliard, and others. My family led me to believe that gospel preaching was an honorable, important occupation. So did the Hinesville church of Christ, on that occasion and subsequent ones. So did brethren in those places where I filled in.

What an important lesson for families and congregations today! Paul asks some questions of eternal consequence: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:14-15).  I pray that more adults will send a clear message to young men: preaching is important, respectable, and valuable! It should be considered as an option exercised by normal and even talented and intelligent individuals.

We’ve been engaged in full-time ministry for 28-plus years, and it has blessed our lives tremendously! It’s thrilling to watch our three sons giving themselves to that life, too. Let’s send more preachers!

(It’s hard for me to listen to, but it should encourage anyone who says, “I don’t have any talent for preaching!”)

Discipline Yourself For The Purpose Of Godliness

Discipline Yourself For The Purpose Of Godliness

Neal Pollard

Two weeks ago today, Wes Autrey and I decided to hold each other accountable for eating better and losing some pounds. The daily check in that accompanies this requires me to pay attention to how much and what I eat and pushes me to make sure I go work out. The single most difficult element of this challenge is the discipline.

It’s interesting that the word translated “discipline” in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 literally means “to train.” The Greek word is the one from which we get our English word “gymnasium.” The adjective form is translated “naked,” the figurative sense meaning “manifest” or “unconcealed” (Kittel-Bromiley 133). While the Greeks would exercise naked, the verb form came to mean “to concentrate” (ibid.). So when Paul says, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (4:7), he is calling for utmost concentration and conscious training in order to achieve godliness. Louw-Nida remind us that godliness refers to “appropriate beliefs and devout practice of obligations relating to supernatural persons and powers” (530). It is driven by a profound respect for God because of who He is and what He deserves.

The motivation Paul gives the Christian for exercising godliness is the unsurpassed value it gives us.  He contrasts the value of godliness with bodily exercise. I do not believe Paul is saying it’s a total waste of time to exercise. After all, it does do “a little good.” It helps us function and feel better for a good while in these bodies God gave us. But by comparison, godliness is far superlative. People can look at our lives and see the fruit of it while we live on this earth, but it also leads us to eternal life.

Godliness is the goal, the motivation. Discipline is the means to that end. In context, Paul calls for discipline to be built through proper diet (“being nourished on the words of faith and of…sound doctrine,” 4:6), proper exercise (“labor and strive,” 4:10), proper focus (“we have fixed our hope,” 4:10), and consistency (“show yourself an example,” 4:12; “give attention,” 4:13; etc.).

Wes and I hope that the results of our herculean efforts “will be evident to all” (cf. 4:15). It will require us to “take pains” and to “be absorbed” in our goal (cf. 4:15). Certainly, it means paying close attention to ourselves (4:16). Much more than that, you and I must direct our attention to the proper beliefs and practices that will get us to heaven and influence those who are around us (4:16). Remember that discipline is about training, a process that must be repeated, perfected, and continued. But, the payoffs cannot be matched! How’s your discipline?

MOM’S STEWARDSHIP OF CHILDREN

MOM’S STEWARDSHIP OF CHILDREN

Neal Pollard
Feeding schedules, diaper changes, and runaway toddlers seem to consume a mother’s world for what seems like forever.  It may seem like an eternal duty, but those days very quickly pass.  What you learn in each new stage of your children’s development is that God gives you grace and strength to meet the challenges that accompany it.  Sleepless nights, drained energy, and unfinished housework discourage you.  Unappreciative, uncooperative children at times confront you.  Unsympathetic, clueless husbands may (though surely only rarely) irritate you.  But, you, ma’am, are doing important, yea, eternal work!

You hold more than a baby in your arms.  You lead more than a toddler or small child by the hand.  You mold and shape more than a child’s mind, social skills, and heart.  You, dear lady, are influencing this world and eternity.  As you rise to the challenges and succeed in keeping Christ in the center of your children’s hearts, you are partnering with God.  He can help you cope with the temporary trauma, the short-lived chagrin, and fleeting frustrations of motherhood.  God designed the home, and as such He designed it as a place where mother’s touch and influence would settle deep into the hearts and lives of those eternal souls you helped bring into existence.  You can dedicate them to God like Hannah did Samuel (1 Sam. 2:28).  You can sacrifice for them like Samson’s mother did for him (Jud. 13:13-14).  You can treasure the things about your children in your heart as Mary did about Jesus (Lk. 2:19).

In the meantime, while you are coping with the daily frustrations of motherhood, remember the words of Jan Dunlap:

Help me remember, when I feel it’s a chore,
The time will come when I’ll hold baby no more,
Asleep on my chest, the crib refused, the blanket,
the pacifier, gone unused.

What better place is there to lay baby’s head
Than against my heart, my arms her bed?

For children grow up and leave us behind
With only memories left to remind us
Of midnight walking and predawn rocking,
Of sweet, crying babies unable to sleep.

So, keep me patient and keep me awake
While I cradle this dear child,
And don’t let me begrudge another long night
With this baby, my darling, my joy, my delight.

The trials of motherhood are a relative moment.  The lessons you leave them last beyond a lifetime.  Thank you for willingly, lovingly, and righteously pursuing this important facet of God’s work on earth!
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Learning About Worship From Children

Learning About Worship From Children

Neal Pollard

Thom Vaught gave the “elders remarks” last night after the Young Lions participated in their annual program of Scripture reading, song leading, prayer, and preaching. The fourteen first through six graders obviously listened well and learned much. Thom noted how we look at the Christian life as a marathon, but these boys (and the seventeen God’s Precious Daughters who hosted a tea in the fellowship hall at 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon for 80 Christian women!) were actually the next leg in a relay race.  Everybody seemed to leave the assembly last night so spiritually full and energized. Perhaps that was because of what we had seen (and learned) throughout last evening’s service.

…That genuine enthusiasm is infectious.
…That worship should be characterized by purity.
…That you cannot easily fake sincerity.
…That sometimes truth gets told most poignantly and effectively from such an innocent heart.
…That it is encouraging to see someone overcome their fears to lead.
…That we appreciate seeing those who lead us unashamedly show us their hearts.
…That worship should be joyful.
…That we should carry the experience of worship out the door with us into our lives.

When Thom asked those present last night who had formerly been through Young Lions and God’s Precious Daughters to stand along with the 31 children involved this year, it was overwhelmingly encouraging to see so many scattered among our healthy crowd last night who had received this wonderful training. The leadership training they have received through the years has contributed to the teenagers and young adults they have become, serving Christ and others. Some of them are married now. Others have graduated from preacher training schools or are students there. Others have gone on to Christian Colleges. They lead us in every phase of our worship regularly and effectively. We appreciate the men and women who came up with this program and all those who have served through the years. All of us are the better for it. Last night was a reminder of something Trent Woolley, who helped lead this year’s program, said to us, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3).  I pray we will carry these lessons learned into worship with us next week and the weeks beyond that!

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How To See The Good In Others

How To See The Good In Others

Neal Pollard

Some just can’t! They assume bad motives, intentions, and behaviors in others. They like to predict failure and disaster. Some take that attitude toward people, including Christians. “They won’t last!” “They can’t cut it as a deacon/elder.” “He won’t ever be a good preacher!” “They just want the praise of men.” Think about all the people you know and interact with. Some are exceptionally talented and pleasant and some are pretty worthless and repulsive, but most are in-between the two extremes. But, what if I told you that you could influence what others become?  Barnabas did (Acts 4:36).  He was so good at encouraging people, “encouragement” wasn’t his middle name but his first name. Who was the first one to see good in Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:27)? Who saw great potential in Antioch (Acts 11:23-26)? Who still believed in John Mark (Acts 15:37), who Paul would later think valuable once more (2 Tim. 4:11)? Barnabas was a great leader because of what he could see in others. We can make an eternal difference in people by seeing the good in them.

First, take them where they are. Jesus did.  Do you remember when Jesus met Peter (Luke 5:1-11)? Peter calls himself sinful.  We know he was impetuous (John 18:10) and could use unsavory words (Mat. 26:74). Peter’s business partners, the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) seemed to have some anger management issues. In fact, Jesus made it an emphasis to take sinful people and work with them wherever they were (the woman at the well, the sinful woman caught in adultery, Bacchus, publicans, sinners, etc.). We will never help people get to heaven if we can’t take them where they are.

Then, see them for what they could be. Whether it’s a non-Christian or Christian, they need us to be able to see their potential and think the best of them. I don’t mean gullibility or compromise, but optimism! Why did Christ put such effort into Peter? He was a sinful man when He met him, made many mistakes while he was with Him, and denied Him in His greatest moment of need (Luke 22:60-62). He saw what Peter could be (John 21:15-17). Look past people’s quirks and flaws; imagine the possibilities.  There’s got to be a soul-winner in every Christian, since Christ commands it of us all (Mark 16:15-16). Every one of us can be faithful, dedicated, and fruitful Christians. Every lost person could have their hearts softened by the gospel–at the least the gospel has the power (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16). Remember, love “hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

Finally, help them be what they can be. It’s far easier to be the critic and tell people what they’re doing wrong. But remember, “To belittle is to be little.” Criticism alone is useless.  It’s a lot tougher to help people improve and to go about helping with patience. Jesus didn’t end His work by telling people what sinners or failures they were. He guided them to the better way (Mat. 7:13). He told the adulteress to stop sinning (John 8:11). He told Peter to go feed His sheep (John 21). When He was through with Zaccheus, he went from thief to philanthropist. Jesus’ whole purpose was to take people afflicted with sin and transform them. It is rewarding work to invest in people and to help them grow. The Bible tells us to help people do better and be better (Gal. 6:1). To see the best in others, be willing to help and lead them (Luke 6:39-40).

If we are negative and pessimistic, that really is just a commentary on us. Look for good in others. Accept, anticipate, and assist!