Let The World Be The World And The Church Be Different

Let The World Be The World And The Church Be Different

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Many of us were startled by an automatic alert sent to our phones last Saturday morning, alerting us of potential violence and danger in our usually serene city. The reason was a planned protest and counterprotest, a racially-charged event centering on a horrible incident that happened almost seventy years ago in another state. Predictably, it stirred up some division and exposed extreme and racially-prejudiced views from some.

The world prefers to keep people divided on the basis of race, gender, political affiliation, and the like, and uses such tools as identity politics (Brittanica defines this as “political or social activity by or on behalf of a racial, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, or other group, usually undertaken with the goal of rectifying injustices suffered by group members because of differences or conflicts between their particular identity or misconceptions of their particular identity and the dominant identity or identities of a larger society”) and tribal alliances. Subject to human biases, emotions, and subjectivism, easy to misjudge and assume others’ motives and intentions, it becomes a massive roadblock to oneness and unity.

But we would expect no less from the world. Who is the prince and ruler of this world? He is a murderer (John 8:44), a devourer (1 Pet. 5:8), a sinner (1 Jn. 3:8), and a deceiver (2 Co. 11:3,14). Chaos, disorder, and division serve his purposes quite effectively.

In the midst of such mayhem, the Lord has the church in this world to be a beacon and light (Mat. 5:13-16). What an opportunity we have in the midst of the world’s divisiveness to show a people united on the foundation of truth, regardless of our race, background, education level, economic strata, or any other way the world wants to divide us. We won’t compromise the eternal truth of God’s Word, but we will stand together on that even however difficult or unpopular. We will live by 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.” We will honor His objective and follow His blueprint to achieve it.

When an onlooking world gets a glimpse of us in action, red, yellow, black, and white, working in love, harmony, and acceptance of one another, they will find an alternative to the world’s hate. When they see the poor esteemed and accepted as much as the well-to-do (Js. 2:1-8), they will see a bright alternative to a cold, status-conscious world. If the church will be the church, we can help the world–one searching person at a time. But the world will always be the world. We should not expect them to show us the way to be one. Their ruler wants chaos. Ours wants peace.

Conclusion (1 John, Part 15)

Conclusion (1 John, Part 15)

Wednessday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

We’re writing this to you so you’ll know you have life forever. This is for those of you who believe the name of God’s son. We can be confident when we talk to God — if we make a request that aligns with his will, he listens to us. We know he listens whenever we ask, and that he’ll give us what we ask for. 

If one of you sees a Christian family member sin (not the kind that causes death), ask God to give them life, and he will. This only applies to the kind of sin that doesn’t cause death. There is a kind of sin that leads to death, and I’m not saying you should pray for someone who commits that kind of sin. Every morally wrong act is sin, but there are sins that don’t lead all the way to death. 

We know that no one in God’s family continues to sin. God’s son personally protects us, and evil can’t affect him at all. We know that we belong to God, but evil controls the whole world. We know that when God’s son came to earth, he gave us the ability to understand the true one. We live in truth through his son, Jesus Christ. He is the truth, and he is life forever. Children, keep each other away from idols. 

What’s On The Ballot?

What’s On The Ballot?

Neal Pollard

For some, it’s their wallets. But, “beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

For some, it’s their walls. Whether the one at our national border or the ones around our home. National security is important. Law and order derives from God and Scripture (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). But, remember, “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (Psa. 127:1). There should be higher motivation.

For some, it’s wokeness. Whether to protect hyper-racism or to combat cancel culture, some on either side will be driven by this issue. This certainly has been central to those whose vote is driven by education matters. Yet, it is so easy to let subjective ideas supplant God’s authoritative Word. We must be convicted by the truth of Jesus’ words in John 12:48: “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.”

For some, it’s the womb. How sobering to vote in support of taking the life of the unborn or to be motivated by such. May we remember that one of the things God hates are “hands that shed innocent blood” (Prov. 6:16)!

For some, it’s worry. It may be general unease and anxiety about the “direction” of our country. There’s a fine line between civic duty and sinful worry. God is always on His throne. As ever, “…the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (Dan. 4:32).

For some, it’s the Word. The continued ability to teach the gospel to the lost, to worship together according to that Word, and to live according to God’s Word should underlie everything we do. That includes informing our votes in elections. But, may we keep in mind what the angel tells Zechariah to tell Zerubbabel: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). No election, however favorable to our convictions, is a substitute for making disciples (Mat. 28:18-20).

Many say “democracy is on the ballot,” though what that means depends on who says it. Hopefully, we all prayerfully deliberate and do our best to align everything we believe, endorse, and encourage with what the Word says! But when we leave the voting booth, we need to “go into all the world” and give them what they need more than anything–the hope of eternal life!

Worship That Wearies God

Worship That Wearies God

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

If we are honest, some days it is easier to worship with focus and enthusiasm than others. We’re human and we struggle. With mental preparation and prayer, we can minimize the frequency of such times, but they happen to the best of us.

Have you ever thought about God getting tired of the worship brought by His people? I don’t mean worship done incorrectly and according to the will of men which violates what He commands. Apparently, He rejects such worship (Mat. 15:9). I don’t mean the idea that He gets bored and had rather skip a Sunday here and there. No such picture is ever painted of God.

But through the prophets, He repeatedly talks about being weary of the worship brought by His people. 

“I have had enough…I take no pleasure in…your worthless offerings…an abomination to me…I cannot endure…They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them” (Isaiah 1:11-14).

“I hate, I reject your festivals, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies…Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps” (Amos 5:21,23).

“Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you” (Malachi 1:10). 

Each prophet is dealing with specific circumstances prompting such a response from God, but it should cause us to take notice that just coming into the “meeting house” and going through the motions does not equal acceptable worship. Neither does simply following the New Testament pattern for the acts of worship. You will find in each of the passages above that the people were at the right place offering the right sacrifices on the right day led by the right people. The problem was either one of attitude, hypocrisy, or outright worldly living. Jeremiah documents how the people lived just like the world for the rest of the week, then filed into the temple to sing, “Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it!” (7:4-10). 

Worship is a special privilege, to come into the presence of our Maker and Savior. At our best, we worship Him with sin and weakness in our lives. He knows that and the cross proves that He knows it. He is not expected sinless perfection, but He is looking for characteristics in our worship just beyond doctrinal accuracy.  He wants:

  • Feeling (Psalm 95:6; John 4:24).
  • Engagement (Matthew 15:8).
  • Effort (Hebrews 13:15).
  • Gratitude (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:16-17).
  • Thoughtfulness and Intentionality (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).
  • Devotion (Acts 2:42).
  • Consideration of one another (Hebrews 10:24). 

It is such a blessing that God communicates with us not only about the “what,” “when,” and “who” of worship, but also the “how” and “why” of it. When we are assembled for worship, He tells us what worship should look like. Between the assemblies, He tells us what a life looks like that partners with that worship.

God speaks of the various sacrifices of His children being a “fragrant aroma” to Him (Philippians 4:20; ). He likens the prayers of His faithful people to incense (Revelation 5:8; 8:1ff).  Jesus assures us that true worshippers offering true worship are highly sought after by God (John 4:23). That’s the aim, isn’t it? The idea of presenting God with both a worshipper and worship which enthuses Him is the pinnacle of excitement! 

Next Sunday, before we come together in worship, we can read Psalm 95, Psalm 96, Isaiah 6, or a similar chapter which reminds us of Who we get to worship. Today and every day, let us strive to build on the most recent worship we have offered by a life of faithful service and sincere devotion. That will set the table for worship God can’t wait to receive! 

The Wearied Preacher

The Wearied Preacher

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

But beyond this, my son, be warned: the writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body.” (Ecclesiastes 12.12 NASB1995) 

As Solomon reaches the end of his treatise as “The Preacher,” he expresses his feelings, using his life as an example. During his life, as today, people wrote on many topics. If there is a difference between our two eras, it must be that more people today have access to education and can read all of the books that people write. Otherwise, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1.9). Yet, with education comes self-reflection. And self-reflection often prompts men to take pen to page and write in poetry and prose. Even so, that self-reflection brings melancholy, as with men like Edgar Allen Poe.

And this is where we find Solomon. But even though cynical at this point, Solomon still sounds as if he could have found a home among the other literary figures of the Romantic era, like Alfred Lord Tennyson or Henry David Thoreau. When it is fashionable for men to be scholarly, one notes more men willing to put thoughts and feelings into words. Whatever the rationale, whether to be praised, make money or achieve catharsis, it spawns one of the hallmarks of culture: literature.

Generally speaking, literature and its study are positive. From those writers in the past, concepts have been communicated through time, influencing future generations. Before the Romantic era, the West went through the Age of Enlightenment. Academics and thinkers drew ideas from the classical thought of ancient Greece. Some thinkers in this epoch penned literature the American Founding Fathers read and sparked a revolution. Others, like Sir Isaac Newton, were inspired to unlock the secrets of the cosmos.

But then there is another class of literature written by men with a deleterious effect on the reader. No, I am not just talking of the smut peddler, though that is terrible. Instead, I am referring to those like Karl Marx or Adolph Hitler, who took to pen to write dangerous, subversive ideas that upset the course of civilization. Although World War 2 effectively destroyed Hitler’s brand of fascism, Marxism still flourishes in the ivy-covered walls of U.S. colleges and universities. And we have not even mentioned those like Friedrich Nietzsche, who was desirous of taking away his reader’s hope in God.

Even so, the written word remains one of man’s greatest inventions. And it is apropos that the first book produced by a printing press was a copy of God’s Word. That book, the Bible, is itself a compilation of 66 books. And think of the diverse and storied men who wrote those books’ words through the Holy Spirit’s influence: shepherds, kings, tax collectors, tent makers, doctors, et al. So the final product is something we can even enjoy as literature, despite being written for our moral guidance.

In this Information Age, as some have dubbed it, we still have our writers. They may write as I do for a blog, a funny-sounding word that didn’t even exist a half-century ago. It is short for “weblog.” Or they may write for journals, newsletters, and books. But men still write. You may have never guessed that it is a tiresome task, especially when dealing with the denizens of the interwebs. These readers crave new content, not unlike the way the ancient Athenians daily gathered on Mars’ Hill to hear some new thing (Acts 17.21). And if you don’t keep your content fresh, you lose readers. So even if you do not monetize your blog, as this is a non-monetized blog, one still wants to have readers to make the endeavor worthwhile. It is not necessarily a numbers thing, but more eyes ensure that more seed-casting and watering can occur so that God brings an increase (1 Corinthians 3.5-7).

Hence, there is wisdom in distributing this chore to five men, each bringing their perspective to the task. As one who has repeatedly tried and failed at blogging because of physical infirmity and ADHD, one article a week is a fantastic achievement. However, I get tired at even the thought of multiplying that effort by five weekdays. But Solomon pointed out that writing is tiring. Yes, this is not a book, per se. But it is still wearisome. Some may mock how something like preaching, teaching, or writing devotional content could be tiring since it is not blue-collar work. The answer lies within physiology since even the brain of a resting person requires about 20% of the body’s energy.1

There are also emotional highs and lows. Sometimes you become sad like Solomon. When you realize, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10.31 NASB1995), you want to figure out how to convince the most stubborn person of their need to obey God. Sometimes you must surmount cultural, ethnic, socioeconomic, and generational differences to do this. So how do I tailor a message to convince this man or woman I desire to win for Christ?

At other times you encounter a gold nugget, something that had never caught your attention in your prior readings through the Scriptures. So, naturally, you want to drop everything and research it, plumbing its depths. But maybe your search leads nowhere. And you end up tossing it upon that humongous pile of things that are the secret things known only to God (cf. Deuteronomy 29.29). Then again, you might hit the Comstock Lode. In this case, not only do you learn something new, but it may even be something that corrects you from the error you ignorantly embraced and taught. At the end of the day, one realizes that he will never exhaust his capacity to learn something from God’s Word. And that should be something that humbles you.

No wonder Solomon ends his message by saying one should not try to tackle the wisdom that we see residing beyond God’s Word. If it can be wearisome to study the Bible, imagine trying to wrap your head around fields of study that are contingent on theories since no one can prove what they believe. For example, just recently, the James Webb Space Telescope showed no signs that the universe is expanding, something necessary if the big bang occurred. There is also no red shift in those galaxies farthest away, indicating no cosmic expansion. So now cosmologists and physicists will go back and have to come up with a new explanation for the universe’s origin. How frustrating, even panic-inducing.2

Solomon sums everything up after the “wearied Preacher’s” last admonition against too much study and “excessive devotion” to books of no eternal value. Our purpose is to fear God and keep His commandments because He will be judging us (12.13-14). If you know enough to save your soul from hell, you are indeed a wise man or woman.  

 

Works Cited 

1 Richardson, Michael W. “How Much Energy Does the Brain Use?” BrainFacts.org, Society for Neuroscience, 1 Feb. 2019, www.brainfacts.org/Brain-Anatomy-and-Function/Anatomy/2019/How-Much-Energy-Does-the-Brain-Use-020119.

2 PlanetMoron. “What If the Big Bang Never Happened? the James Webb Space Telescope Might Change Everything.” Not the Bee, Not the Bee, 22 Aug. 2022, notthebee.com/article/what-if-the-big-bang-never-happened

Advocacy And Standards (1 John: Part Two)

Advocacy And Standards (1 John: Part Two)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Advocacy & Standards

My children, I’m writing all of this to you to help you avoid sin. But when we do sin, we have someone who came from God and who advocates for us: Jesus Christ, the morally perfect one who gets rid of every one of our sins. He doesn’t just take care of our sins, he does the same thing for the whole world! 

We can know for sure that we know him if we do what he’s told us. Anyone who claims to know God but doesn’t do what he’s told us is a liar. The truth doesn’t exist in them. 

If we do what he’s told us to do, the truth is in us and God’s love is, too. That’s how we know we’re with him. If we claim to be with him, we’re obligated to live by the same standard Jesus lived by. 

“Partnership” (1 John: Part One)

“Partnership” (1 John: Part One)

Wednesday’s Article: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

I’ll be repeating the book of I John in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an “essentially literal” translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

Partnership

It’s existed since the beginning. We’ve heard it ourselves and we’ve seen it with our own eyes. We’ve studied it and touched it with our own hands. This is the word of life, and this life was shown to us. Everything we’ve heard and witnessed and told you about is this eternal life. He came from the father and was revealed to us. We’ve told you everything we’ve seen and heard so you can partner with us. We have this partnership with the father, as well as with his son Jesus Christ. We’re writing this to you to make our joy complete.

The message that we’ve been hearing from him is the same one we’re giving you: God is made of light, and no darkness exists in him whatsoever. If we claim to be partners with him while our lives are defined by walking in darkness, we’re liars and can’t even practice the truth. But if our lives are defined by walking in light, we have partnership with each other. On top of that, the blood of God’s son Jesus gets rid of any and all sins we have!

If someone says they don’t have sin, they’re lying – no truth exists in them. If we admit that we have sin in our lives, he is consistent and morally pure, so he’ll forgive us and get rid of our moral impurity. If someone says they’ve never even sinned, they make God a liar. His word will have nothing to do with them. 

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

12 Truths You Can Hang Your Hat On

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

In every chapter of Ecclesiastes you can expect at least two kinds of verses. At least one verse will make you wonder what Solomon is talking about and one verse will hit you in a profound way. As it turns out, humans haven’t changed that much over the years and our current experience of life share many similarities. Here are twelve amazing truths found in this book. 

1.4-8 

Some things never change. 

2.24-25 

Pleasing God will bring you more joy than chasing the things that bring momentary pleasure. 

3.9-11 

God has given us a desire to know the future. Because of this, we understand that while we don’t know the future we’re better off serving a God who does. 

4.9-12

It’s by design that we can accomplish more with help. God can do more with us when we are team players. 

5.19-20 

There’s joy to be found in hard work and that too is by design. Satisfaction is a natural feeling produced by the work of our hands. 

6.6

If you don’t find joy in life then life will drag on and feel slower. 

7.13-15 

When life is good, enjoy it. When life is hard— remember that it’s like that for everybody. Ups and downs are part of living. 

8.16-18 

This world is not just but don’t let that fool you into thinking that God isn’t just. We can’t understand how God’s mind operates in every circumstance. 

9.11-12 

Not everything happens for a reason! God might have a hand in any event, Satan may have something to do with it— or maybe it’s all a coincidence.

10.8-15 

Every job has it’s dangers but wisdom can make a job run smoother just as a sharp knife can make a task easier. 

11.7-8

It’s good to be alive! It’s nice to see the light from the sun. You should enjoy the life you live with eternity on your mind. 

12.11 

You can put your trust in any wisdom and teaching that comes from God. 

Each chapter of Ecclesiastes is filled with wisdom and life changing words. Our world needs to spend more time studying this inspired collection of truth. 

Dead Sea Scroll 109 (Ecclesiastes, commons image)
Twenty Lies We Tell Ourselves (And God’s Responses)

Twenty Lies We Tell Ourselves (And God’s Responses)

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard
  • “I did this by myself” (Deut. 8:17)
  • “I’ll do it tomorrow” (Prov. 27:1; Jas. 4:13)
  • “I’ve gone too far and done too much” (cf. Luke 15:13-24)
  • “I can’t do it!” (Num. 13:31; Phil. 4:13)
  • “Nobody will ever know!” (Ecc. 12:14; Rom. 2:16).
  • “I deserve this” (Luke 12:15-21;
  • “This feels right so it must be right” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25)
  • “I’m not good enough” (Eph. 1:6; Heb. 12:28)
  • “No one will miss me; I’m not needed” (1 Cor. 12:14-27)
  • “It won’t matter a thousand years from now” (Mat. 25:46)
  • “God is trying to keep me from enjoying life” (Gen. 3:4-6)
  • “I can quit anytime I want to” (John 8:34; Rom. 6:16; 2 Pet. 2:19)
  • “Everybody does it” (Exo. 23:2)
  • “I’m only hurting myself” (Luke 17:1-2; Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:9-13)
  • “If God loved me I wouldn’t be going through this” (Prov. 3:12; Heb. 12:6)
  • “I can’t help it” (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 9:27)
  • “I was born this way” (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
  • “It’s too late for me” (Matt. 20:6-9)
  • “I don’t need help” (Ecc. 4:9-12)
  • “Nobody cares about me” (Rom. 8:35-39)

“Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6)

via Pixabay (creative commons)
Thank You, Dr. Jordan Peterson

Thank You, Dr. Jordan Peterson

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

According to an article written on The Public Discourse in 2018, Dr. Jordan Peterson is said to be “the most influential Biblical interpreter in the world today.” By almost all accounts, his insight and commentary on the Scriptures are held in high regard. On several occasions, Dr. Peterson has been asked about his belief in God to which he responds, “I don’t like that question.” One of his most popular YouTube series covers, “The Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories.” 

There have been millions of people who have spent hours watching these videos, but most of them are still wondering what Dr. Jordan believes concerning the existence of God. He says, “I act as if God exists and I am terrified that He might.” Some in his audience have taken this, and other similar comments made by him, to be deliberately vague. After one particular lecture, Dr. Peterson gave those in attendance the opportunity to ask him questions. One attendee asked Jordan to give his insight on the apostle Paul’s statement, “…and if Christ has not been raised, then all of our preaching is useless” (I Cor. 15.14). To this, Dr. Peterson put his hand to his chin and pondered this for a minute. Afterwards, he looked up and said, “I don’t have a good answer to that. I haven’t gotten to the New Testament yet, but I plan to find out what he meant.” 

This response deserves our appreciation. Jordan Peterson is a serious thinker and a great philosopher who takes his quest for truth seriously. He has acknowledged the importance of seeking out the answer to life’s most important question. He has made the realization that a personal discovery of God’s existence would carry with it life-changing implications. 

While his current beliefs do not mesh with the teachings found in His Word, he exemplifies the seriousness that we may sometimes lack. If we profess to believe in a supreme and eternal Creator who will one day judge mankind, our lives should reflect this down to our core. Our daily decisions should exhibit the devotion of our lips.