SEXUAL DEVIANCE

Neal Pollard

On this trip to Cambodia, there have been insights into some things I did not know and reminders of things I did know.  Polygamy is routinely practiced in the villages, trafficking of minors to wicked and perverse men is a problem, and promiscuity is getting more common.  Some of these issues are matters of exploitation, while others are matters of choice in the culture.  However, these kinds of departures are to be found all over the world.  In our own country, a great many live together and engage in a sexual relationship without the thought of marriage.  Divorce without biblical reason and remarriage is commonplace.  Homosexuality in the last few years has been a cause celebre, something you are confronted with just about everywhere you turn.

To say something is sexually deviant does not mean that it is not popular in a culture.  If deviance means “different from what is considered to be normal or morally correct” (Webster), a lot of things condemned in scripture are considered normal by people today. The world may not see these departures are deviant, but what the world thinks cannot overthrow the will of God.  God made us and knows how we best function in every area of life.  He also created sex as a blessing for people to enjoy within the boundaries He has set.  We deviate from that standard to our own individual hurt and to our own society’s peril and demise (cf. Prov. 14:34).  Jesus warned that what came out of man’s heart defiles him, defilement that includes evil thoughts, fornication, adultery, coveting, wickedness, and sensuality, among other things (Mark 7:20-23).

No country or even time has a monopoly on sexual deviance. The Bible warns about it in both testaments, with even graphic illustrations of the problem and how God feels about it, but He does so because He knows what’s best for us.  The couple (or individuals in the marriage) who turn to pornography to “spice up” their marriage will suffer for it. Those who tinker with God’s marriage plan in whatever way will see the bitter fruit of it.  What God wants is for us to see what He has laid down for us to follow, strive to follow it, and enjoy the great reward that comes in doing things His way!  We must not deviate into deviance, but will do so to our own hurt! Let’s keep confidence that His way is the only way and it is the best way.

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“NO, HE’S ABOUT LIKE YOU!”

Neal Pollard

A new preacher was moving to work with a church in a community where there were several more congregations. Two of the preachers already working in that area met for lunch and the conversation soon moved to the new preacher. One of the men asked, “Have you ever heard of this guy before?” The other said, “Yes, I know him very well.” The first, picking at the second, said, “Oh? Well, does he preach as well as you?” The second dryly said, “No, he preaches about like you!”

That second preacher had healthy self-image, didn’t he? He was obviously joking, but you probably have met his counterpart-someone who took such self-evaluation quite seriously. We call them the “one-uppers,” “the toppers,” and the one most likely to say, “Oh yeah? You think that’s something.” You hear them at work, at your kid’s ballgame, out with a group of friends, at family gatherings, and even with spiritual family members. Different things may make them tick-arrogance, low self-esteem, insecurity or feelings of inadequacy, a felt need for being the center of attention, and any number of other things. Typically, such behavior is thought boorish and overbearing and only rarely endearing.

The Bible tells the church, with its many and varied “parts,” that no one should “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” (Rom. 12:3). You are precious and valuable in the sight of the Lord, no doubt! However, you are not more special or valuable than any of His other children. Your soul is not even more valuable than the lost, as yet unredeemed soul of that wino in the gutter, that prostitute walking the street, that murderer on death row, or that blind mute living out a short life in the obscurity of an orphanage in Albania. My Grandpa Mitchell was known to often say, “Remember that nobody is better than you are and you are no better than anyone else!” What an even-handed, level-headed way to look at life. You are better at some things than others, you do better in certain areas of life than others, and there may be one of more things at which you are incredibly talented, competent, or proficient! Be grateful to God and give Him the glory for it or them. But never let it turn to sinful pride or an over-inflated ego. That is a turn off to men and God!

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T.H.I.N.K. (Teens Happily Ingesting New Knowledge)

Neal Pollard

How fitting that they were there studying James 1:22, as Michael Hite taught.  Well over 20 of them gathered in one living room, hunkered down for nearly 90 minutes as just eight verses were covered in-depth, they seemed like budding archaeologists finding some new treasure.  That they have been doing this week after week for nearly nine months is incredible! Rather than losing interest, they seem to be building it.  Not only that, they are inviting non-Christian friends, concocting ways to serve the Lord and others, and growing more knowledgeable in the meat of the word.  There is no sense of obligation evidenced, but a genuine desire to be together investigating the truth of the Bible.  Yes, they have an excellent teacher, but they also have a true hunger.  They are like those Jesus’ praises in Matthew 5:6, hungering and thirsting for righteousness.  They are like those Luke reports about in Acts 17:11, eagerly receiving the word.  They are like those James challenges the Christians to be, quick to hear the word (1:19) and looking into the perfect law of liberty and continuing in it (1:25).

Frankly, they challenge you and me.  They are saying, by example, “we are willing to commit an extra couple of hours every week in addition to our regular assemblies to go deeper in studying God’s Word!  We do not have to, but we want to do it.  Not only that, we are growing (2 Pe. 3:18) and using this study to improve our spiritual walk (Col. 1:9-12)!  It is motivating us to do good works (cf. 1 Ti. 6:18). We are applying it and it is changing our lives!”  Of course, that is what scripture is meant to do for each of us.

We must develop a taste for the milk and meat of the Master’s message!  The more we thoughtfully take in, the more we will want.  Bear Valley teens, thank you for challenging us to step it up!  We will try to keep up with you!

 

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HURT PEOPLE HURT PEOPLE

Neal Pollard

Several have made the observation that hurt people are inclined to hurt people.  I have been told that by others to explain mean, hurtful, rude, and inappropriate remarks.  Yet, since everyone experiences significant hurt (so the Holy Spirit said through Job in Job 14:1), why doesn’t everyone lash out and wound others as they suffer from their own and various “injuries”?  Why do others, including those claiming to be Christians, seem inclined to injure others with especially their speech? It is good to get some perspective and not take personally the times someone cuts and slashes us or we witness a hurt person hurting someone else.  While it never excuses bad behavior, it does help to understand it better.  However, what can we say to the hurtful hurt person?

  • Take your hurts to God’s throne.  He is perfect and perfectly impartial (Acts 10:34-35).  He also has all the facts and all the answers.  He can help our life’s situations better than anyone else.  Let Him help you bear the load.
  • Don’t allow your pain to injure your influence or your spirituality.  It is possible for us to earn a reputation as sarcastic, biting, mean-spirited, passive-aggressive, critical, etc.  Yet, we never want to do anything that threatens to douse our Christian lights.
  • Find healthy ways to work through the hurt.  Prayer has already been mentioned.  Loving, spiritual confrontation is another (cf. Gal. 6:1; Mat. 18:15ff). Part of healthy coping is avoiding the unhealthy.
  • Focus intently on the spirit of the “Golden Rule.”  Be sure that you would want said to you what you are tempted to say or if you’d want it said in the way you’re going to say it before you let it fly.  It requires tremendous self-awareness and self-examination to successfully do this, but it can make all the difference.
  • Try to move from hypersensitivity to genuine concern for others.  We cannot keep our feelings on our sleeves and keep a record of wrongs done to us. It’s not loving (1 Co. 13:5).  What is loving is to work to look out for the interest of others (Phi. 2:4).
  • Measure the impact of your words before you say them.  You cannot unsay things, so think it through first!  The late Marshal Keeble once said, “Before we speak, we must chew our words and taste them and see if they are pleasant words.”  If not, swallow them!

Since “death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Pro. 18:21), we must make the choice to say words that heal rather than kill, that restore and do not demolish.  We should never wish to contribute to another’s struggle to walk in the light or get to heaven, and we must consider how our words either encourage or discourage.  If hurt people hurt people, what do saved people do?

 

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Little Things?

 

Neal Pollard

Look what one look at a woman bathing on her rooftop cost a man, his home, and his country.  The pronunciation of one word spelled the difference between life and death for a nation of people.  One word inserted by a serpent changed the course of human history forever.

One visit to a website, one indiscreet email or phone call, one moment of anger and fury, one rash and foolish decision made before a new Christian, or one “white lie” can create unbearable consequences to the heart, destiny, and influence of a person.  Rationalization that it’s only once or only a little can be fatal, both to self and others.

But this “little thing” principle applies to attitude, too.  A brief, gossiping conversation may seem harmless, but discourage or devastate the subject of it.   Small, snide comments about the elders, Bible class teachers, deacons, or others may divide friends for a long time.  A grudge-bearer may help divide a church over a single, relatively minor incident having long since occurred.  “Little,” too often, is in the eye of the beholder.

A dear preacher friend of mine, David Sain, once illustrated this point very well.  He wrote:

I once read a statement that really got my attention.  It declared that a
tiny gnat can wreck an automobile.  Of  course, I wondered, “How?”
The article then explained that a tiny gnat had wrecked a car by flying
into the eye of the driver at a critical time, causing him to lose control.
So often in life, little things can do great harm.  It is easy for us to be
like that gnat.  Our petty criticisms, murmuring, complaints, and fault-
finding can “wreck” the most ambitious person or program.  Friend,
what our world needs is builders-not “wreckers.” (via Eastern Meadows Church
Bulletin, Montgomery, AL).

Let’s be careful with our influence, not minimizing our impact on others by our words, acts, and attitudes.  We want to do the little things that make a church great, through those same mediums.  As David says, let us build rather than wreck!

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TAKE A PILL OR EXERT YOUR WILL?

Neal Pollard

They are currently touting a diet pill that is a normal size when one takes it, but it expands up to 100 times its original size when taken with a 16 ounce glass of water before a meal.  This is to give the one who takes it the exaggerated feeling of being full.  Then the pill eventually reduces in size afterwards.  Some are calling it the answer for those who are severely overweight but who have a harder time cutting back how much they eat.

Ours is an age prone to offer easy alternatives to what the Bible calls self-control (2 Pe. 1:6). This word is defined as “‘to hold oneself in,’ ‘to command oneself,’ ‘to be a chief of oneself,’ ‘to make one’s heart be obedient,’ ‘to command one’s own desires,’ ‘to be the master of what one wants,’ or ‘to say No to one’s body'” (Louw & Nida, np).  Few of us excel at this all the time, but the Holy Spirit through His inspired writers call it a characteristic of the sanctified.  Paul preached it to individuals like Felix (Ac. 24:25) and to congregations like Corinth (1 Co. 9:25).  Perhaps some limit their understanding of “self-control” to sexual matters. While that is certainly an important area, all passions and desires must be kept in check.  Paul told Galatia, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (5:24).

That applies to diet and exercise as surely as it does tobacco, alcohol, and various lusts.  If one looks to a pill as a substitute for portion control and healthy food choices, he or she is bypassing the exertion of a trait that is supposed to be a sign of faithful Christian living. How many of God’s people have eaten themselves into health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and the like?  It is often easier to excuse our unhealthy lifestyle by pointing to stress, heredity, metabolism, or busyness than to exert the necessary discipline needed for us to better care for our bodies.

Some of us may have to work harder at this than others thanks to genetics, age, or the other factors just mentioned, but that is what self-control is all about.  It is about exerting the effort required to master our wants and say no to our bodies.

This may be an unpopular subject to address, but in our ever-expanding society that has eaten its way into weight problems and obesity God’s people are to lead by example.  That means demonstrating self-control not only by what comes out of our mouths or from our deeds, but by what we put into our bodies.  We don’t do that by taking a pill, but instead by exerting our will.

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LIZARD SPIT

Neal Pollard
It is not an interjection or obscure, Cowboy euphemism. It is one of the latest weapons in the fight for weight loss. In fact, it was approved a few years ago by the FDA to be used in the treatment of especially type two diabetes. The drug, exenatide, contains a chemical that is found is the saliva of the poisonous Gila monster. There are chemical explanations for why the reptile’s oral emission is effective in weight loss, but the result is that a growing number are clamoring for it to be made available for use in the battle of the bulge. To curb enthusiasm, one might want to consider the long-term effects of exenatide as there have been several reports of pancreatitis among users of the drug (for more info on this, see http://www.wgal.com/health/).
It is human nature to look for shortcuts and substitutes. Often, this can be a good thing as we look to be more efficient, better time managers, or discoverers of that which contributes to better quality of life. However, it can also betray a tendency to look for the easy way out rather than choosing a path that leads to the best, long-term solution. Whether it is in matters relating to finance, weight-loss, work productivity, or spirituality, the quick fix or easy substitute is not usually the best choice. In fact, it can even prove counterproductive.
Lizard spit in shot form might be easier than diet and exercise, but it does not sound like a good first choice. Getting “our Bible” only from the preacher is not a viable substitute for personal study. Letting man tell us that some other way leads to salvation will not take the place of obeying what the Lord says in His word about how to be saved. Self-reliance is no stand-in for prayer. Instant gratification is not the same as self-denial, whatever excuse or rationalization we make. No matter if it’s the old proverbial peddler of “snake oil” or the new medical expert promoting lizard spit, it is much the same. Remember that the path of least resistance is the quickest way to erosion. Do not accept substitutes!

 

 

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Where’s Greg Reynolds Today?

Neal Pollard

Being a Rockies’ fan has its ups and downs—historically, there have been more downs than ups, I’m afraid.  Being no-hit last night by Dodger’s pitcher Clayton Kershaw was pretty low!  While it was only the third time in franchise history that no Rockies’ hitter got a hit in an official baseball game, there was a particular pain to the “no no” last night.  Kershaw was picked by the Dodgers with the seventh overall pick in the 2006 Major League Draft.  That means he was available when the Rockies used the second overall pick to take right-hander Greg Reynolds out of Stanford University (via http://www.baseball-reference.com).  While Kershaw is arguably the best pitcher baseball has seen this generation, Reynolds is duking it out in Japan’s professional baseball league with the Saitama Seibu Lions.  So far, he’s notched a very mortal 6-11 record in America’s professional baseball league. He’s 0-5 with a 5.52 ERA with the Lions (bis.npb.org.jp).

This is not intended to be a rip on Greg Reynolds or even Colorado’s front office, though the local fan base may like to see it.  Nor is it simply an opportunity to vent frustration against our local diamond dwellers. It is, however, a great illustration of something that can happen elsewhere in life.  Reynolds was selected so high in the draft because of potential, a record of achievement he had compiled to that point, and certain tools and traits that seemed to scouts and organizational brass like a “can’t miss” opportunity.

How often are we reminded that superior intellect, physical strength, charisma and charm, and abundant material resources alone are insufficient?  Whole nations like Edom, Canaan, Egypt, and even Israel learned this in the Old Testament.  Individuals with such potential, whether Samson or Saul or the Rich Young Ruler, prove that performance is the ultimate measurement over potential.  “Almost” is an unsatisfactory and incomplete idea, as is nearly, close, and “could have been.”  The graveyard is littered with stories of those who did not parlay potential into performance.  History’s pages portray so many figures who flirted with greatness without getting there.

The stakes are different for us.  It’s not millions of dollars, All-Star status, or the Hall of Fame (or even being able to stick on a Major League roster).  Intentions are insufficient.  Action is all-important.  When we are thinking about God’s commands and considering that eternity is at stake, we must have more than tools and talents.  We must, simply, do (Mat. 7:21; Luke 6:46).

 

No, THAT is not Reynolds. Guess who it IS?

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BEAUTY MARKS

Neal Pollard
God made women as one of His crowning achievements of beauty, and I am blessed to be married to one of His finest samples of this. They are called the “fairer sex” for obvious reasons. This was obvious from the first generation of man (Gen. 2:22-23). While Solomon extolled the physical beauty of his wife in Song of Solomon and King Lemuel’s mother extolled the intellectual beauty of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, Paul, a single man, and Peter, a married man, are led in their writing by the Holy Spirit to identify three distinct beauty marks of God’s ideal woman.
“Good Works” (1 Tim. 2:10). This mark is set in contrast with the immodesty of ungodliness in 1 Timothy 2:9. Whether overdressing or under dressing, the ungodly woman accentuates her outward self. This is not true beauty. Paul says being adorned with good works covers her with true loveliness. When a Christian lady is engrossed in good works, visiting, teaching ladies and children in Bible classes, soul-winning, or as context emphasizes (2:15), fulfilling her role if possible in the home raising children, she is a rare beauty. There are countless good works in which she can be engaged for Christ and the church. In doing these, she reveals remarkable beauty.
“A Gentle And Quiet Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:4). In 1 Peter, Peter makes some statements quite similar to Paul’s. Notice first that Peter, like Paul, preaches a message that could not be more different from the world’s sermon. The world tells a woman to allow herself to be a sexual object for men, to flaunt what she has, and to be provocative in her dress and manner. Peter tells her to accentuate chaste conduct and fear (3:2) and the “hidden person of the heart” (3:4). This is “incorruptible beauty,” literally not subject to decay. One thing I have observed through the years is that the godly woman grows more beautiful with age, the wrinkles and other marks of age not marring her appearance one bit. Her godly disposition, disciplined righteousness, and spiritual greatness beautify her in a way Cover Girl or Oil of Olay absolutely could not! Her friendliness and tranquility attract in an ageless way.
“Holy And Trusting” (1 Pet. 3:5). Peter mentions another beauty mark in his description of God’s stunning woman. She is like Sarah and other Old Testament women of righteousness. She is holy, meaning she lives near to God and far from the world. What truer beauty is there? She hopes for God, suggesting that she counts on Him and puts her confidence in Him. The world’s ideal woman boasts of her self-sufficiency, self-reliance, self-confidence, and self-making. Selfish persons of either gender are decidedly unattractive. But, the Christian woman appears beautiful through her dependency upon God and His ways.
Paul reminds us that despite our “beauty products” and cosmetic surgeries, the outward person is running down and wearing out (2 Cor. 4:16). There is nothing wrong with keeping in good physical shape (1 Tim. 4:8) or taking care of our physical appearance. However, let God’s woman be convinced that the things mentioned by Paul and Peter in these verses cause her to win the beauty contest in which God the Lord is the judge.

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PURER YET AND PURER

Neal Pollard

While this song is not one of our “toe tappers,” it is meant to be reflective. What a challenge it presents to us, too! Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote the poem during Napoleon’s heyday and Anne R. Bennett translated the lyrics a full decade before the Civil War, but the words are perhaps more timely today than they were in her place and time. While the song is about more than just holiness and purity, the idea is about aspiring to greater, better service to God. Goethe’s original poem had four verses, talking alternately about finding duty dearer, calmness in pain, peace and confidence in God, greater nearness to God, running the Christian race swifter, and the like. All of these endeavors are tied together, but I want to focus on that first phrase: “Purer yet and purer, I would be in mind.”

Do you feel like you are doing pretty well at purity of thought and heart? May I encourage you to take Goethe’s challenge to heart and make his prayer your prayer? Do you ever have feelings, however “small” or infrequent, for someone other than your mate? Do you ever look at things and people in web sites, advertisements, magazines, commercials, or an immodestly or provocatively dressed person of the opposite sex without looking away or in a way that produces lust or inappropriate thought? Do you ever find yourself harshly judging motives or drawing conclusions in your mind about people without sufficient knowledge of the person’s heart or situation? Do you ever envy another’s situation, their job, popularity, wealth, or home or marriage situation? Do you ever harbor a grudge toward someone, feeding those unhealthy feelings?

Obviously, that is just a starter list designed to create a host of similar questions. Purity of heart and mind is a daily challenge. Just because you defeated those purity foes yesterday does not give you respite from today’s battles. In fact, we know that since these challenges often arise when we least expect it, so we have got to keep the battle implements close at hand. Will you take the challenge of Goethe’s writing? Will you have as your goal absolute purity of heart? Being pure in heart will not inherently bring wealth, health, or fame, but it pays off in the highest and best way. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).

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