THE WHOLE LETTER

THE WHOLE LETTER

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I Peter

This is from Peter. I am one of the twelve apostles who followed Jesus Christ. I’m writing to all you Christians who were kicked out of your homes and are living in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. It was God’s plan, with special intent, for you to follow Jesus and enjoy grace because of his blood. I hope you enjoy a lot of grace and peace! 

God, the father of our master Jesus Christ, is incredible! Because he wants what’s best for us, he gave us new life and the best kind of hope. This hope is alive because Jesus came back to life after he died. This new life is being guarded in heaven for all of us! It’s a new life that can’t run down, it’s brand new, and it’ll last forever. 

We’re protected by God’s power. How? Our faith gives us protection, because we expect to be rescued at the end of our lives. This is exciting for us, even though we’re going through hard times right now. They’re hitting us from every side. 

These hard times have a purpose: we can prove our faith. Our faith is more valuable than gold, which doesn’t last forever. Even gold has to be refined with fire, right? When Jesus comes back, our suffering will gain us praise, recognition, credit, and status! None of you have seen Jesus, but you love him anyway. None of you can seen him right now, but you believe in him anyway. Because you believe and love him, you’re excited beyond words! Your faith will lead to rescue when it’s all finished. 

The prophets who told us about this rescue were very curious about it. They investigated and obsessed over the identity and timing of the rescuer Christ’s spirit was telling them about. He told the prophets that he would suffer at first, but would gain everything after. He told the prophets that their writings were for people in the future, not for them. You are those people in the future! Through God’s influence, people told you about our hope for rescue. By the way, even angels are deeply interested in the hope you have right now! 

Since you have this hope for rescue, don’t ever let it go. Everything you do must be influenced by this hope. Make sure you’re mentally preparing yourself for spiritual combat. Make sure you have self-control going into this. We’ll be rescued when we see Jesus, so hang on tight to hope. 

Don’t go back to your old lives. You had those old, unhealthy desires before you knew any better. Instead, you must live like God wants you to. Jesus did! God’s word said, “You have to be morally pure, just like I am.” You know that God will judge everyone without bias. Live like you know this, and let that give you a healthy dose of fear. He didn’t use an unstable asset like money to secure your rescue. He used the most valuable thing in existence: his own flawless blood. 

Jesus’ plan was in motion before we were even created! He recently made his appearance just for us. Because of him, we believe in God, who brought Jesus back to life and gave him recognition and power. We believe in him. We have hope because of God. 

Since we’ve decided to follow God, we have to love each other unconditionally. We have to love each other without ulterior motives. We do this because we’ve cleaned up our lives. We weren’t born into a new life through natural means (like babies). Jesus gave us new life, and he’s never going to die. You’ve read this before, “Everything alive is like grass. Its impressive qualities are like the flowers that show up in grass. Grass dies, along with its flowers, but God’s word will live forever.” This is what you were taught already. 

Since you know we’re on borrowed time, sustain yourself with God’s words. Babies instinctively crave what they need to stay alive. We must do the same with God’s words. If we decide that God’s words are good for us, we’ll be rescued when we “grow up.” Before we get to this point, we have to get rid of bad qualities. There’s no room for hate, dishonesty, hypocrisy, jealousy, or attacking character. 

We’ve been a nation-in-the-making for a while, a group of people who serve God the right way through Jesus. We’re only in a good place with God because of Jesus. He was the first brick in this house, but no one on earth wanted him. God saw him as the most valuable! Each of us are also bricks being built into a special house by God and for God. You’ve read, “Look, I’m building a perfect foundation with a special stone. If you believe him, you won’t ever be disappointed.” If you believe him, he’s the most valuable thing in the world. For everyone else, “He’s the stone none of the builders wanted to use, but he became the foundation of the house anyway. They tripped over him and couldn’t stand him.” They couldn’t stand him because they didn’t follow his words. They are destined to die. 

That isn’t you, though. Y’all are a select group. You’re valuable servants. You’re a distinct nation. You’re destined to be God’s. We tell everyone about how perfect he is because he pulled us out of darkness. We exist in his awesome light now! We used to be nobodies, but now we’re his people. We used to be hopelessly lost, but he forgave everything. 

I say this because I love you: stay far away from unhealthy desires. They’re the sworn enemies of your souls, and they attack without mercy. Remember, this isn’t your permanent home. You’re strangers and outsiders on this earth. Remember this when you’re around earthly people. Make sure you behave like you’re supposed to. They’ll treat you badly and say horrible things about you since you don’t act like everyone else. Maybe they’ll notice your awesome morality and follow God themselves! 

Speaking of people on earth, God wants us to obey whoever’s in charge of us (as long as it isn’t sinful). If it’s your president, obey him. Anyone acting on the president’s behalf is just as in charge. God uses them to punish bad people and praise good people. By doing what they tell us, we’re doing what God wants. Maybe we’ll even shut down the ignorant things others say about us! 

We’re independent of any human government, but don’t use that as an excuse to disobey your governments. You have to see every person as valuable. You have to love each other. You have to obey your government. Employees must listen to their employers. Be respectful to them, even when they aren’t good to you. We don’t do this for them, we do it for God. He thinks very highly of us when – because we love him – we act like we should, even when we’re being mistreated. You don’t get credit for putting up with mistreatment if you bring it on yourself with bad behavior. If you’re mistreated because you’re trying to do the right thing, though, it makes God happy. 

This is why God called us in the first place! Jesus suffered to benefit us. He intended for that to be example we could follow. He never did anything wrong, he never said anything wrong, he didn’t fire back at people who said hurtful things. He never threatened anyone who put him through suffering. He constantly trusted God, knowing that God judges perfectly. He voluntarily took the punishment for our sin when he physically suffered on the cross. He did that to give us the chance to kill our old lifestyles and live morally pure lives. His injuries healed us. We had no direction, aimlessly wondering around like a sheep. Now we follow the one who leads us and protects us. 

While we’re on this topic, wives must listen to their own husbands. If your husband doesn’t have faith, maybe you’ll win him just through your great example! You wouldn’t even have to say anything. Pure and respectful behavior speaks volumes. Don’t obsess over your physical appearance or fashion. Show off who you are inside! A gentle, easy-going demeanor is timeless; it’s also extremely valuable to God. Remember the women who lived a long time ago? They were considered special because God was their hope, just like he’s your hope. They also expressed their beauty by deferring to their husbands. Sarah did that for Abraham – she considered him to be her leader. You are just like her when you do the right thing without being afraid of anything. 

Husbands, you’re not off the hook. You share a living space with your wife, so you have to be a student of her needs and wants. Don’t treat her like one of the guys. Remember the differences between men and women. Don’t be rough with her. Make sure you show her how valuable she is! She has just as much a claim to God’s promise as you do. If you aren’t good to her, God will block your prayers. 

Finally, you all need to work together. Show sympathy to each other. Be kind to each other. Don’t think too highly of yourselves. Don’t insult people who insult you. Don’t get even with people who hurt you. Do something good for them instead! That’s actually why God called us, and he wants to do good for us, too. You’ve read, “Anyone who wants to live a good life should watch their mouth. They should avoid evil and do good things. They should look for peace and chase it. God watches out for good people and listens to their prayers, but he’s against people who practice evil.” 

Who’s going to hurt you if you’re obsessed with being good to people? Even if someone hurts you because of your faith, you’re ok! Don’t be afraid of their threats, don’t let it shake you up. Put Jesus in the center of your heart at all times. Have a logical answer handy whenever you’re interrogated for your faith. Tell them about your hope, but make sure you’re gentle and respectful. Make sure your moral lives are good so they can’t legitimately attack your character. If you’re doing the right thing, they’ll answer for how they treat you. It’s better to be attacked for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing. 

Our lifestyles were hostile to God, but he died for us anyway! Moral perfection died to save morally imperfect people. He wanted to bring us to God! He was killed physically, but his spirit was brought back to life. This is the form he had back in Noah’s day. Even then he wanted to save people who were about to face total destruction! God waited patiently for them to change, giving them chance after chance while Noah was building the ark. They died; in fact, only eight people survived that flood. 

Water saved Noah and his family from those evil people, and water saves us from evil, too. We don’t bury ourselves in water to take a bath. We submerge ourselves in water to ask God for a clean slate. We can only do that because Jesus was brought back to life, sat next to God, and was given total control of every supernatural force. 

Mentally prepare yourself to suffer. Jesus suffered while he was human! When we suffer physically, it’s because we stopped doing bad things. As long as we’re alive, we’re not chasing the unhealthy passions humans have. We do what God wants. You used to chase those unhealthy passions! You craved all things bad, got drunk, partied without restraint, and practiced horrible things while worshipping fake gods. Since you used to do this, your old friends are shocked that you don’t anymore. They hate you and mistreat you now, but they’ll have to answer to God. He’s going to judge everyone who’s ever lived. Remember, the hope for rescue that Jesus gave us was offered to people who aren’t alive anymore. Since everyone’s going to face God, everyone is given the chance to live like God wants. 

Everything’s about to come to an end. You have to be reasonable and self-controlled for the sake of your prayers. Most importantly, don’t ever lose your love for each other. Love hides all kinds of mistakes. Take care of each other without complaining. Use your assets to help each other, since God helps us in so many ways. If your talent is speaking, speak as if you’re talking for God. If helping others is your talent, do it with limitless energy. This way every aspect of our lives gives credit to God by our dedication to Jesus. He gets all recognition and authority forever! 

Family, don’t let these hard times shock you. Don’t feel like you’ve been targeted. You are suffering like Jesus did, so let that keep your spirits up! When he comes back, we’re going to be indescribably happy! If people insult you because you love Jesus, you’re lucky! The full weight of God’s spirit and power is with you. Just make sure none of you suffer because of something you’ve done wrong, like murder, stealing, practicing morally bad things, or sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong. If you suffer because of your faith, though, don’t feel bad! Instead, give all the credit to God. 

We’re about to be judged by God. Since we’re going to be judged first, how do you think it’s going to be for people who rejected God? It’s hard enough for a morally good person to be saved, so what’s going to happen to morally bad people who don’t follow God? Since we’re about to suffer, we have to trust God with our lives. He’s going to take care of us if we’re doing the right thing! 

Since we’re about to face difficulties, it’s very important that your elders lead you carefully. I’m an elder, too, and also look forward to sharing in the recognition we have coming to us. Elders, don’t lead people because you feel like you have to. Do it because it’s what God wants! Don’t lead because you want to get something financially out of it. Don’t abuse your power, but lead by example. When the ultimate leader shows up, your reward will be indestructible! 

Younger people, listen to the leaders. Every one of you should think of each other as being more important than yourselves. God stands against prideful people, but he’s very patient with humble people. Stay humble under God’s power and he’ll lift you up when it’s time. He cares about you, so you should always let him handle your anxieties. 

Exercise self-control, and make sure you’re watching carefully. Your enemy (the devil) is on a determined path – like a hungry lion – looking for someone to kill. Fight him with determined faith, he’s not targeting just you. Everyone in God’s family is experiencing the same kind of suffering all over the world. After you’ve suffered for a short period of time, the God who gives so much grace will personally make you strong, give you confidence, restore you, and give you security. He has eternal power. 

I’m sending this short letter to you through Silvanus, my faithful brother. This is all true, and it’s extremely important for you to understand God’s timeless kindness and let it keep you strong. The woman at Babylon sends her greeting; she is chosen, just like you. Mark, my son, says hi. Make sure you greet and affirm each other. I hope all of you who follow Christ enjoy peace. 

The Truth Is Out There

The Truth Is Out There

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

 

Gary Pollard

I believe that God exists. I believe that He communicated with His creation by direct contact, messengers, and a series of ancient texts. I believe that He wants His human creation to be with Him after they die. I believe that He expects those who claim to be His to act within the guidelines He set in those ancient texts. I believe that there is life after death and that where we go depends on whether or not we follow this God.

Why do I believe this, though? What reason do I have to believe in something I cannot experience with my senses? I was not there thousands of years ago when the prophets and Hebrews talked to God. I was not there when God came here to teach. I was not there when the authors of the original texts delivered their writings to the early church. The ancient texts translated into English sometimes do not effectively communicate the emotion of the words and concepts in the original language. So why do I believe these things? Why do you believe these things?

Think about this carefully. From Genesis to Revelation the message is clear: God wants His people to exist with Him after time is destroyed. This message was communicated to an impossible variety of people, sometimes separated by hundreds of years, thousands of miles, culture, kingdom, race, and language. There are tens of thousands of manuscripts of these ancient texts in many, many different languages. There are some 25,000 New Testament manuscripts or fragments that are separated by about a thousand years, at least 8 different languages, thousands of miles of geography, and many different cultures. Yet, they are at least 95% accurate to each other. The remaining 5% do not contain a single contradiction; rather, they are spelling errors, slips of the pen, writing on the wrong line, or minor variances (“God said” vs. “He said” or “and” vs. “but”).

Of the rich libraries we have of ancient literature, none can hold even the dimmest candle to the profound accuracy and unity of the scriptures. They could not have been produced by man alone. There had to be Someone not confined by time supervising each person as they wrote. Keep in mind, these ancient cultures did not have the advantage of modern communication. They were almost totally isolated from each other and would have known little of the others’ existence, much less what they experienced or wrote from God. Our Bible has supernatural origins and its contents reveal the nature of our Creator. What I believe comes from this book because I know it is God’s message to mankind. I encourage those who have not already done so to do an in-depth study of the origin of scripture. It is one of the most faith-building studies anyone could undertake. When you know with certainty that what you are reading contains the actual thoughts and desires of God, it bolsters your faith in ways I could not begin to adequately describe.

A Subtle Prohibition

A Subtle Prohibition

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

The Index Librorum Prohibitorum was a Roman Catholic list of prohibited Bible versions. Anything other than the Vulgate was illegal to possess. Violations had severe penalties. No lay person would ever want to be caught with a common, modern translation while the Index had force of law.  

While not nearly as dramatic as a forbidden book list, some have inadvertently created similar prohibitions. Their reasons are different, their motives less nefarious, but the outcome is equally destructive. 

Are translations like the ERV and NIV perfect? No! But no one translation is perfect. Read multiple, but be sure to include versions like these in your study. If and when something comes up that seems different, investigate it! Spend some time figuring it out! Look at context, consult multiple translations, see how it fits with the author’s overall message. 

This is a difficult statement, but true: many Christians do not understand the Bible. Some equate memorization with knowledge, but could not accurately elaborate on what a passage means. Secularization and hectic schedules are partially to blame, but difficulty understanding their translations is often the culprit. 

Some examples:

(ESV): Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. 

(KJV): God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

(ERV): In the past God spoke to our people through the prophets. God spoke to them many times and in many different ways. And now in these last days God has spoken to us again. God has spoken to us through his son. God made the whole world through his son. And God has chosen his son to have all things. The son shows the glory of God. He is a perfect copy of God’s nature. The son holds everything together with his powerful command. The son made people clean from their sins. Then he sat down at the right side of the Great One (God) in heaven. God gave him a name that is a much greater name than any of the angels have. And he became that much greater than the angels. 

Which was easier to read? Which was easiest to understand? The last probably shed some light on the ESV and KJV. How? It’s translated the way people actually communicate. It removes an obstacle to understanding that formal equivalence has kept in place for some time. 

This quote is famously attributed to Albert Einstein, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” The same readily applies to the Bible, which was originally written in the recipients’ common language. 

The translation committee for the English Bible for the Deaf include this statement at the beginning of their work: 

“The main concern of the translators was always to communicate [the message] of biblical writers as effectively and as naturally as the original writings did to people in that time. Faithful translation is not just matching words in a dictionary. It is a process of expressing the original message in a form that will not only have the same meaning, but will sound as relevant, attract the same interest, and have the same impact today as it did thousands of years ago.”

Reading a modern translation that utilizes dynamic equivalence (alongside other translations) in personal Bible study is extremely helpful. Doing so can have no other effect than enhancing one’s understanding of God’s word! 

BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATION

BARRIERS TO COMMUNICATION

Neal Pollard

I was asked by a preacher from Texas to go and provide emotional support to a family of brand new Christians he reached with the gospel. In a tragic circumstance, the matriarch of this family was in the hospital Sunday morning to have a gallstone removed and doctors accidentally severed the hepatic portal vein going into her liver. This led to multi-organ shutdown that ultimately ended her life. In this atmosphere of unanticipated emotional pain and suffering, family had gathered from all over the country to see her before doctors removed the lines keeping her alive. I was unable to communicate very much comfort or support because most of them spoke no English and I speak virtually no Spanish. I sat in the waiting room with them throughout the afternoon, watching their anguish but having little more than smiles and sympathetic looks to offer. The matriarch’s granddaughter spoke good English, but it was hard to expect her to continually provide translation as she struggled with her own grief. Hopefully, they knew I cared and will allow the church to provide further encouragement. Thankfully, we have several members who do speak Spanish fluently who could help in ways I cannot.

As I was driving home and thinking about the best way to quickly learn Spanish, I had another humbling thought. How many opportunities do I pass up with people with whom my communication barrier is not language? There are some other, more sinister barriers that can keep us from speaking up for Christ in situations He is counting on us to take advantage of. There is fear—fear of rejection, opposition, or being ostracized. There is apathy—failure to consider or care about the eternal destination of the souls of those we encounter. There is selfishness—as we are so absorbed in our own pursuits that we do not open our hearts to the lost in our lives. There is sin—the presence of personal lifestyle issues for us that render us ineffective as sharers of the gospel message. These and other matters are much more frequently the roadblocks that keep us from reaching out to the people we encounter.

It will help us, I believe, to remind ourselves daily that this world is not our home and that every person is heading to an eternity that swiftly comes. We must have the courage to share with people how to prepare for that, to understand the great love God has for them and His desire to save them. We must keep the conviction strong that Jesus is the only way to salvation and that His applied blood is their only hope for such. We must care about people, enough to pray for boldness and wisdom, enough to walk through our open doors, and enough to share the good news with them. People are at the heart of our purpose as Christians. Let’s serve them by sharing the good news whenever, wherever, and however we can.

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