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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Five Reasons God’s Law Of Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage Applies To All

Neal Pollard

People approach the very sensitive subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage in several ways. Some, ignorant of what Jesus says about it, are a law to themselves and come up with any number of “alternatives” including living together without marriage, homosexuality, adultery, and the like. Some have become stricter than Jesus, saying that divorce for any reason is a sin. This is making a law where God has not (Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18-19). Some have become less strict than Jesus, making allowance where He has not. One of the most common allowances is the idea this law does not apply to everyone. Also, some have tried to make the sin of adultery something other than what context shows it to be. Here are five reasons why God’s law of marriage, divorce, and remarriage applies to all.

(1) Jesus Goes Back To The Beginning Of Creation (19:4,8). Jesus is not teaching something that was limited to His own time and it certainly was not an articulation of the Law of Moses (see 19:7-8). Instead, Jesus goes back to the dawn of time to Adam and Eve in the Garden. Jesus, in giving His command, reaches behind Moses to “the beginning.” This shows a timelessness to the command. God designed it a certain way, man distorted it, and Jesus dictates a new way that is universal in nature. He points ahead by pointing back to the beginning.

(2) What God Has Joined Should Not Be Separated (19:6). When two people have a right to be married, whether or not a preacher or religious person performs the ceremony, God is joining those two together. Verse nine gives God’s only exception for allowing the marriage bond to be severed and only then for the one against whom fornication is committed (the “innocent party”)(see the last phrase in verse nine). There is no qualifying phrase beyond that one exception to justify ending one marriage and forming another.

(3) Jesus’ Teaching Is Explicitly Clear (19:9). It truly takes “expert help” to misunderstand what Jesus teaches here. Take out the exception and here is how the “rule” reads: “Whoever divorce his wife and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” That could not be clearer! The exception is also perfectly clear.

(4) The Disciples’ Reaction (19:10). Their reaction is actually extreme. They conclude that it is better not to get married. Jesus does not validate such thinking, but it gives us insight in to what they understood. Jesus’ law for marriage, divorce, and remarriage is stringent! If “adultery” merely meant “covenant breaking,” would the disciples react so? One would simply need to “repent” of having broken their marriage vows, and then enter another marriage. If Jesus meant that, the disciples would hardly have reacted at all.

(5) Christ’s Final Response About Eunuchs (19:11-12). Jesus clears up any doubt by how He ends this discussion. He speaks of three classes of eunuchs-those born that way, those made that way by men, and those who make themselves that way “for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.” Being delicate here, we understand what it means to be a “eunuch.” That cuts to the heart of what our Lord is saying and one of the blessings accompanying the marriage relationship. Those who divorce for reasons other than the exception Jesus gives in verse nine would have to be in that third category of person discussed in verse 12.
This is not a truth that can be delivered with cold stare, pounding fist, and judgmental heart. It is one that more likely will be accompanied with breaking heart, blinding tears, and extreme hesitation. Probably nothing is more unpleasant to teach, but as part of the “whole counsel” (Acts 20:27) it must be taught. Culture cannot be the authority on this matter. Neither can emotion. Instead, as always, we must let Jesus be the authority (cf. Col. 1:18; 3:17; Matt. 28:18).

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I REMEMBER CALE VERSUS DONNIE

 

Neal Pollard

1979 was the year I discovered sports, developing a fledgling interest in my home state’s greatest football team, the Georgia Bulldogs, watching Dale Murphy and Bob Horner, young stars on a woeful Atlanta Braves team, learning names like Steve Bartkowski, William Andrews, and Greg Brazina. I started collecting baseball, football, and basketball cards.  But my clearest memory and biggest sports’ memory in that seminal year of sports-fan-man-ship came when I walked into our living room in Cairo, Georgia, at the end of the Daytona 500.  I can’t remember how many laps I watched, but I watched them all in utter fascination—including the historic final lap.  The suspense, drama, and excitement was palpable, climaxed by Cale Yarborough coming down the inside in an attempted “slingshot” move and triggering a crash between himself and Donnie Allison.  The maneuver cost them both the victory as Richard Petty took the checkered flag.  But what I remember was not Petty’s win, but the altercation between Cale and Donnie’s brother, Bobby, who had stopped to check on his brother.  Cale hit Bobby in the face with his helmet, then, as Bobby famously recounted, Cale went to beating Bobby’s fist with his nose.  That moment (“the fight”) is credited with putting NASCAR “on the map” and leading it into the mainstream of American interest.

While it’s ultimately a matter of indifference that a fight led a sport to success, it’s profoundly sad that the religious world is often known for its division and difference rather than its being united in truth.  One of the biggest arguments against Christianity is that “Christians” (as the world sees them and understands the term) argue with each other.  As world religions spread and as secularism and atheism grow in our world, the strife and division among us is more negatively noticeable than ever.

This fragmentation could not be farther from heaven’s desire.  Jesus prayed for His followers to be united (John 17:20-21).  Paul condemned religious division (1 Co. 1:10-13) and called for the body of Christ to be one (1 Co. 12:13; Eph. 2:16; 4:4).  The world is heading toward eternal punishment and religious people who follow manmade doctrine are said by the Bible to share that tragic fate (Mat. 7:21-23; 15:8-9; John 12:48; Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18-19).

When the world looks at those professing to be Jesus’ disciples, what should they see?  I know what Jesus wanted them to see.  He said, “”A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  Let’s be known to the world as lovers, not fighters!

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Bieber’s Baptism

Neal Pollard

It was reported on the news and all I heard was that the pop star turned bad boy, Justin Bieber, was baptized this weekend in the bathroom of a megachurch’s building in New York City.  As has often been the case, this event was surrounded by a sea of controversy involving the 20-year-old singer.  The “pastor” who baptized him said that the act was preceded by a month of intense Bible study.  Bieber sought baptism for cleansing of sin following the release of a racist-filled 5-year-old video featuring the young man. I am not contending in the least that Bieber’s baptism fulfilled the biblical requirements or that he is now, in the New Testament sense, “born again.”

However, it provides a great opportunity to ask what elements must be present in a baptism that does meet New Testament requirements.  First, it must be predicated upon knowledge.  One must understand the significance of the one baptism (cf. Eph. 4:4). Practically speaking, one must either do the personal study or have someone teach what the Bible says about the place of baptism in God’s plan.

Second, baptism must be preceded by sorrow for sin and a desire to have sins washed away.  Sorrow for sin is a part of repentance, which is a change of the mind that results in a change of action (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 2 Co. 7:10).  Repentance is more than sorrow for sin, but it includes such.

Third, baptism must be by immersion to follow the teaching and examples of the New Testament.  We read of baptism as a burial in water (Rom. 6:1-6; Col. 2:12).  We see the Ethiopian go down into the water and come up out of it (Acts 8:38).  In the New Testament, baptism took place where there was “much water” (John 3:23).

Though lacking complete knowledge of Lentz’s Hillsong Church, where Bieber was baptized, there is enough on their website to identify them as thoroughly erroneous in their teaching regarding salvation, worship, and various doctrinal matters (women’s role, instrumental music, tongue speaking, omission of baptism as part of what must be done to have forgiveness).  However, it is possible that Bieber and anyone else we would deem spiritual wrecks—which we all are to some degree and in various ways—can be taught as they were in the first century and become what they then became. May we be searching for those who desire to follow Jesus, making disciples of, baptizing, and teaching them (cf. Mat. 28:19-20).

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“THE GM NOD”

 

Neal Pollard

The Wall Street Journal says General Motors made a “deadly defect in ignition switches used on as many as 2.6 million cars” (blogs.wsj.com, Spector, White, et al). The switches could suddenly slip from the on position, “stalling the vehicles and disabling airbags” (ibid.).  But, it didn’t get fixed and, according to WSJ’s Mike Ramsey and Jeff Bennett, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is certain that there were more than the 13 deaths as GM has been maintaining.  Some safety experts speculate that the number could be as high as 100 (blogs.wsj.com).  A 315 page report on the GM corporate culture reveals that solutions were proposed but died in committees. “But determining the identity of an actual decision maker was impenetrable. No single person owned any decision” (ibid.). The phenomenon was dubbed “the GM nod” or “the GM salute,” where everyone agreed that something should be done but nobody did anything.

A proposal is made, everyone agrees it should be enacted, and then everyone thinks someone else will do it and not them. There is no taking of ownership or accepting of responsibility.  “Someone” will handle it.  But, nobody did!

It is easy to fall into this way of thinking.  When sermons are preached on evangelism or encouraging wayward members, we nod at its importance.  When announcements are made of those facing surgery or being hospitalized and visits are encouraged, we nod that it should happen.  We’re asked to pray for someone and we sympathetically nod. Appeals to attend worship services and Bible classes may be met with a nod.  Calls for duty, involvement, and commitment might get a dutiful nod.

Sometimes, though, the nod is the last action we take.  We’re busy.  It’s not our job.  Someone will do it, but not me.

Let’s be challenged to be moved by right, scriptural calls to action.  Let’s not assume someone else will do it.  Let’s take these appeals personally and act accordingly.

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Can You Do Something With Your Children?

 

Neal Pollard

“Older people”—in which I include not just the elderly but anyone whose children are older—and even others should practice compassion and sympathy toward our dear parents who are making the effort and sacrifice to be present in our assemblies with their wonderful small children.  Attention spans and articulation of needs are challenges up to a certain age.  Even good children wrestle with rambunctiousness and precociousness.  This is natural and certainly forgivable.  With compassion, we must acknowledge that some children have special needs and cannot help some of their behaviors.

Yet, there can be children who are simply spoiled and undisciplined.  While all of us are experts on how others should be raising their children, we all come to the task regarding our own children as rank novices.  God knew that, and so He instructs us as to what to do with our children.

“Train” them (Pro. 22:6). If we are not careful, we can let our children train and condition us.  Have you ever seen children who consistently “ruled the roost” in their homes?  Training implies intention, planning, forethought, and concerted effort. When children seek to impose their will, it takes great will-power and discipline on our part to show them what is and is not appropriate.

“Bring them up” (Eph. 6:4).  Who was it that said “if you don’t bring them up, you’ll let them down?”  I agree with them.  Paul urges fathers to raise children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  We must mold them into God-followers, which means appealing to their minds and bodies.  The instruction addresses the mind. The discipline guides the body.  The antithesis would be undisciplined, ignorant children in the most important area of life—the spiritual!

“Love” them (Tit. 2:5).  Here, Paul urges mothers in this all-important, pervasive action.  Sadly, some think love equates to indulgence, permissiveness, and helpless by standing.  Not at all!  Only loving parents will make their children obey the rules, be polite and well-behaved, and considerate of others.  How sad and unloving when parents constantly shift blame or excuse misbehavior rather than address it and help correct it.

Train them, bring them up, and love them.  Do this, and others will sincerely enjoy being around your children, will compliment them consistently, and thank you for making the effort.  Fail to do it at the potential peril of the child and yourself!  Do what God says should be done with your children!  You will be glad you did.

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Why Has There Been A Decline In Public Responses?

Neal Pollard

While I am certain that there are those who will say that they are still seeing as many public responses in their assemblies as ever, most will observe what I have observed.  As I think back to my childhood, public responses to the invitation were commonplace—nearly every service.  When I first began preaching, public responses requesting baptism or public repentance by members very regularly occurred.  Steadily, particularly in the last five to 10 years, such responses have declined. The burning question is, “Why?”

One might point to the growing influence of the world and its impact on the heart of hearers.  One may point to weaker, less distinct preaching.  One could talk about how potential responders will feel judged or condemned by the others present.  One could speak of the philosophies and world views of the age, whether secularism, naturalism, postmodernism, or emergent theology.

Though these are no doubt factors, I am not fully satisfied with them.  Weren’t these stumbling blocks in place in previous generations.  The names of the philosophies may have changed, but they were there. Consider another theory.  Are we losing the traditional, real social connection and fellowship of days gone by as we lose ourselves in the virtual world of social media (some of the same desensitizing factors could apply to TV and movies, too)?  Before you dismiss this theory, consider some reasons why I promulgate it.

  • Some use social media as their “confessional” or front pew, where they confess their failings in marriage, attitude, speech, or actions.
  • On the other hand, social media outlets—particularly those having photos as part of their makeup—create an artificiality.  We don’t post unflattering pictures (and may plead with those that tag us in them to delete them), don’t generally admit to weaknesses of character or anything that may make us seem inferior to others (financially, socially, intellectually, etc.).  Image replaces integrity.
  • Increased time on social media, cultivating that virtual world and its relationships, may be robbing us of real-time, real-life relationships.  We often neglect those in front of us for those we’re “visiting” by phone or tablet.

How might this impact public responses?  Are we meeting the needs of James 5:16 and 1 John 1:9 via the virtual world? Are we afraid to show vulnerability, need, or weakness, lest we be deemed “inferior”?  Have we desensitized ourselves, losing the ability to be “real”?  There may be huge holes in my theory, but I suspect there is at least some truth to it.

What can we do to reverse the trend? Hopefully, giving it some serious thought is a start.  We cannot reduce ourselves to mindless minions who are consumed with the superficial while disconnecting from the authentic.  We must renew a dedication to fellowship and relationship, now more than ever!  The people on Pentecost were disturbed enough by clear, divine teaching to make that known in the clearest terms (Acts 2:37).  Let’s help the church be a place of real connections and relationships so we can help each other when spiritual needs exist.

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