Monkey Trap (And Letting Go)

Monkey Trap (And Letting Go)

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Maybe you’ve heard of this well-known Southeast Asian method of trapping a monkey. This simple method only requires the hunter to get a coconut or some kind of container that’s hard to break and carve a hole that’s big enough for a monkey’s hand that’s open—but not big enough when its clenched up in a fist. What these primates won’t do even as they see the hunter approach them is unhand the bait. Therefore, their fist inside the coconut traps them there until they are caught.

The principle of the monkey trap can be found in many aspects of life, and it is not foreign to the Bible either. In Matthew 19:16-30 (cf. Mk. 17-31; Lk. 18:18-30) is a story we know very well, in which a rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. 

Jesus knew in that moment what exactly that young man needed to hear and told him what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. However, because he was so rich and did not want to part with his wealth, the young man became sad.

We don’t have Jesus in the flesh in front of us to tell us exactly what we need to do in order to get into heaven, but that does not mean that we are lacking in any way. Through the pages of God’s inspired Word, we are being taught and guided what is required for us to enter into Christ and live a faithful life. 

The challenge for us, therefore, is not that we do not have Jesus to tell us what to do. No—in fact, we have him right here with us, around us, and within us. All around us is the presence of God and our savior. What it boils down to, then, is our fisted up hand inside the trap. 

We may look at the monkey that’s trapped by such a simple device and laugh, but don’t we often find ourselves shackled by the one or two sins that keep plaguing our lives? For the rich young ruler, it was his wealth, but this isn’t about being rich or poor. Even those without money can be chained by their sins that they cannot let go.

It’s the beginning of a new year. A time people usually spend contemplating how this new season of life will play out. How many times have we told ourselves, “I will stop this time,” or “I’ll work on this and get better about it.” When will we loosen our fists that grip so hard on the things that drive us away from God, and finally let go?

The rich young ruler could not let go, and therefore he became sad. Knowing what he needed to do, he still failed. Not because he wasn’t told nor because he didn’t understand. It was a willful decision to choose what’s in his fist rather than Jesus. He teaches us a lesson through this unfortunate outcome. How many times does God tell us through His Word exactly what we need to do, just like Jesus did with the young man? Let us be better in the coming year, to finally thwart off the chains that bind us. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” God has already rescued us. It comes down to us deciding that we want to be saved, rather than be shackled by what’s in our stubborn fists. 

David Chang
“Save Your Soul, Don’t Sell It, for That Mean Green” 

“Save Your Soul, Don’t Sell It, for That Mean Green” 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

The Bible contains numerous references to money, including earning and spending, saving and giving. The Book of Proverbs, in particular, deals with financial issues like wealth and poverty. And even though money can help, it can’t solve every problem. What you need is wisdom. So let’s begin our study by examining some of the benefits of wealth described by King Solomon. 

I will begin with the one most attractive to all of us. Riches do provide one with a measure of security. Today, as inflation is so high, most of us have to do some real belt-tightening. But inflation doesn’t impact the rich nearly as much. Consider what Solomon says about the security provided by wealth: “The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, The ruin of the poor is their poverty.” (Proverbs 10.15 NASB1995).  

Another advantage of wealth is that it is easy to make “friends.” Though it creates a situation in which the wealthy have a more difficult time determining who they can trust, they have no shortage of people eager to orbit their sphere of influence. Solomon says: “Many will seek the favor of a generous man, And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts. All the brothers of a poor man hate him; How much more do his friends abandon him! He pursues them with words, but they are gone.” (Proverbs 19.6-7 NASB). 

We’ll note the last advantage of wealth is that the wealthy also wield power. “The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” (Proverbs 22.7 NASB1995) 

But money isn’t everything. Money doesn’t spare one from death, the great equalizer of all. Aside from that, the stock market may crash, or a catastrophic event may deplete a bank account, and then what? 

Wealth, as Paul clarifies in the New Testament, is not sinful. On the contrary, it is the love of money (1 Timothy 6.10). As a result, there is nothing wrong with attaining wealth. However, wisdom necessitates adherence to these guidelines: 

  • One must earn wealth honestly through labor (Proverbs 13.11). 
  • Avoid being a “trust-fund baby” [It didn’t help the Prodigal—Luke 15.11ff] (Proverbs 20.21). 
  • One should acquire wealth gradually rather than quickly. [My apologies to the lucky lottery winners.] (Proverbs 28.20,22). 
  • Do not amass wealth through deception or predatory lending (Proverbs 20.17; 21.5-6; 28.8). 
  • Remember that wealth is a tool you use, not something using you (Proverbs 23.4-5). 

On the flip side, Solomon offers advice on how to deal with financial hardship. Poverty isn’t always self-inflicted, but it can be! Self-inflicted poverty is something we should avoid at all costs. So, consider what lessons we can learn from Proverbs about spending our money. 

  • Some are economically disadvantaged due to their sloth. We can deny it because it sounds mean, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s true (Proverbs 20.30-34). 
  • Men also waste money in the pursuit of pleasure (Proverbs 21.17). [This pursuit can include gluttony and drunkenness—Proverbs 23.21.] 
  • One can waste resources on things of no value (Proverbs 12.11). 

The Book of Proverbs contains valuable advice on managing money and avoiding financial struggles. May the Lord grant us the wisdom and grace to use our resources wisely. 

She Who Must Be Heard

She Who Must Be Heard

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

A woman is again the embodiment of Wisdom in Proverbs 8. And we find language similar to what we saw earlier in Proverbs 1.20-23: Wisdom desires to be heard by men (8.3-4). Not unlike other women, Wisdom craves attention and acknowledgment. However, Wisdom isn’t shy about raising her voice to get people’s attention. 

In contrast to the harlot in the previous chapter (Folly?), Wisdom does not play coy. Instead, she chooses to be in the spotlight. As a result, she is the center of attention. She perches herself on the rise overlooking the gateway to the city below (8.3). Wisdom does not want to be heard by a select few; she wants to be heard by everyone, whether the sons of men (8.4) or the fools (8.5). She hopes to impart wisdom to anyone open to hearing it. 

Wisdom gives us praiseworthy and righteous counsel (8.6), words of truth and righteousness (8.7-8), and a straightforward and virtuous way of thinking (8.9). The benefits of wisdom are priceless, far exceeding the value of any material possession (8.10-11). 

Thus, Wisdom implores everyone to listen so that she may impart her excellent knowledge. But even if that weren’t impressive enough, verse 12 shows that she is wise, knowledgeable, and has good judgment. Consequently, Wisdom hates conceit, lust, and evil because she respects God (8.13). That’s why she’s a reliable source of guidance, wisdom, and resolve (8.14). 

Wisdom delights in providing these things to everyone, including those to whom God has given earthly authority. Wisdom will bestow riches, honor, righteousness, justice, and wealth on those who love her (8.15-16). She makes it possible for kings, princes, nobles, and judges to rule justly (8.17-21). 

Wisdom testifies that she was God’s companion even before He made the world. Therefore, she existed before the cosmos (8.22). So, according to Solomon, Wisdom is eternal (8.23). Indeed, Wisdom is “older than dirt” (8.26), existing before the oceans, mountains, and hills (8.24). So, Wisdom was present to see the Lord at work, creating the universe. Wisdom saw God create the heavens and the world (27-29) and stood beside Him as a master craftsman, rejoicing in His creation (8.30-31). 

Those who are open to Wisdom’s advice will prosper (8.32). Therefore, instead of disregarding her message, we should listen to her advice and act wisely (8.33). Those listening to her with care will be blessed (8.34a). They’ll sometimes have to wait for her (8.34b), but she’ll bring those who are patient new life and the Lord’s favor in return (8.35). However, those whose sins bring dishonor to her suffer spiritual damage (8.36a).  

Those hating Wisdom demonstrate a desire to die (8.36b). This mindset means that people who like death will get what they want. Thus, wisdom implores us to listen to her so that she may impart wisdom, knowledge, truth, and righteousness; and endow our lives with wealth and glory, especially as the Lord bestows.  

To quote Wisdom:  

“Blessed is the man who listens to me, 
Watching daily at my gates, 
Waiting at my doorposts. 
For he who finds me finds life 
And obtains favor from the Lord.” 
(Proverbs 8.34-35 NASB1995) 

If You’re Reading This You’re Probably A Camel.

If You’re Reading This You’re Probably A Camel.

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

One of the many reasons you’ll never find me sewing is because I can never seem to thread the needle. It takes a good 45 minutes of fumbling around, licking the thread, and missing the hole before I finally get it. This is because the eye of your average sewing needle is approximately 0.6 mm wide. Or a better way to describe it is about the width of two periods placed side by side. Now try to imagine your average camel that stands at over seven feet tall and weighs 1300 pounds fitting through this space that is so small a toothpick can’t even fit through it.
 
Jesus uses this exact illustration in one of his interactions with a ruler during His earthly ministry. This account is found in three of four gospels, Luke, Mark and Matthew.
 
Jesus met many different people in His ministry on earth, from those of weak faith to great faith, from those in opposition to those in support. The account in Matthew 19 stands out for a few reasons. It applies to us more than we realize. We normally don’t think of ourselves as being rich. Rich is Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos. Many of us are richer than we think. For example if you earn $25,000 or more annually, you are in the top 10 percent of the world’s income-earners. The average income in America is $56,180. In America, if you make $32,000 you are considered to be apart of the poor to near poor income bracket, and yet even then you’re still making three times more than the average person worldwide. All of this to say, we are rich. Which makes what Jesus says to the rich young ruler hit a little closer to home.
 
Matthew 19:16 says, “And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” From the outside looking in, this person had it all. He was young so he had lots of life left to live. He was rich so he had no worries financially. He was a ruler so he had power and authority. While he had all of these qualities, he felt a need to go to Jesus for help.
 
The rich young ruler made many right decisions. He came at the right time (while he was young). He came to the right person (he ran and knelt at the feet of Jesus Mark 10:17). He asked the right question (“how can I inherit eternal life?”).
He received the right answer (Jesus tells him the truth). BUT…he made the wrong choice (he left the Lord broken-hearted).
 
The rich young ruler came to Jesus and asks, “what good deed must I do…?”
This question is singular. He was looking for a single action that would save his soul and give him eternal life. Sadly the action Jesus tells him to do was too much for him to handle. His riches kept him from salvation. If you live in America chances are Jesus would say to you, “How difficult it is for you to enter the kingdom of God.” May we never let what God blesses us with keep us from spending an eternity with Him.
PLEASE LOOK BEHIND THE CANVAS!

PLEASE LOOK BEHIND THE CANVAS!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Safari 2017

Neal Pollard

I sat next to a man at dinner the other night, a retired Marine officer named Anthony who was now a successful businessman. Though he was in his sixties and had six grandchildren, he could have passed, even with a smattering of gray hair, for an elite athlete. He was incredibly intelligent, articulate, a war hero, wealthy, and, by anyone’s estimation, a true Renaissance man. He was also a brand new Christian.

Despite his apparent success, he confessed to having experienced decades of emptiness inside. He described it as I have often heard people describe it, that there was a hole inside and nothing he tried would fill it. He pictured it as painting a facade. He held out the canvas for others to see what he projected, but the man behind the painting was hollow, depressed, and ever searching. 

That changed when his neighbor, a man named David Grimes, took an interest in his life. They began walking together in their neighborhood, discussing life. David would always refer Anthony to the Bible and what God’s Word had to say. At some time later, when Anthony faced a crisis, he found himself reaching out to David for help. Ultimately, through David’s friendship and his efforts to teach him, Anthony obeyed the gospel!

Anthony said, “There are a lot of people like me out there! They seem secure, confident, in control, and without need. But they are searching to fill a void in their lives. I know. I was one of them.” We can convince ourselves in these troubling, ungodly times that nobody is interested in God and His Word. Anthony would encourage you to get involved in the lives of your coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and the people you connect with through your children’s activities. No matter what they are projecting, invest in them. At some point, they will let you in. They will allow you to look behind the canvas and the pretty picture they have painted, and you will see a soul searching for something only God can satisfy! God is counting on us to see past the pretense and help that person He loved enough to give His Son for. The picture of success in the world’s eyes was secretly aching for something deeper and better. He found it in the only place it can be found–in Christ! 

Please look behind the canvas!