Is It Clever Or Just Coarse?

Neal Pollard

What do a fantasy football service and a seafood restaurant have in common?  Maybe the advertisement firms they both hired and they felt proud of their play on words that made the commercial viewers hear one word but think of another, extremely vulgar and profane word.  Is this perhaps part of a linguistic trend in our current culture that seems to love to give a good shock to anyone who might still have sensitivity toward foul language?  Hopefully it isn’t, but it seems like a trend to twist speech in the apparent interest of the salty and salacious. Is it imaginative or just plain impure?

You hear it with these pun-like, substitute words that are like euphemisms only more edgy.  You hear it in drug references, referring to behavior, good or bad, as likened to one smoking, inhaling, or intravenously taking something illegal (or in the case of marijuana in Washington and Colorado, now legal). You hear it in crass references to body parts. You hear it in sexually suggestive and charged words, anywhere from “hot” and “sexy” to the more vulgar in an attempt to describe a project, product, or person.  How many of these cross the line of being sinful is difficult to assess, but so many of them flirt with crossing into inappropriate territory.

In Ephesians 5, Paul is in the middle of telling Christians how to “walk.”  Apparently, the walk includes the “talk.”  The chapter begins with his commanding us to imitate God and walking in the footsteps of Jesus. Then, Paul deals negatively by saying how we should not walk. He begins with actions of the mind and the body, then in verse four says, “…Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” To put an exclamation point on the discussion, he says that those practicing such things have no inheritance in the kingdom.  That’s pretty serious!  Bratcher and Nida sees all three nouns as referring to indecent, inappropriate speech, from sexually suggestive words to “shameful, shameless talk of every kind” (A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, np). At least the second two, “foolish talking” and “coarse jesting,” should cause us to give closer examination both to what we say and how we say it.

Our speech is powerful.  One wise word may result in a soul’s salvation.  As death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21), let’s heed the advice of the children’s song—”Be careful little mouths what you say!”

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How Often To Take “The Feast Of Love”?

Neal Pollard

I recently read a fascinating article by John H. Armstrong in the September, 2014, issue of “Christianity Today.” Armstrong starts out reminiscing on early childhood worship experiences in the denomination he attended. He writes that his church celebrated the Lord’s Supper “four times a year. I remember asking why we celebrated it so infrequently. The answer I got never satisfied, and it still doesn’t: ‘If we do this very often, it will lose its meaning'” (51). He goes on to say, “As I grew older, I discovered some churches took the meal weekly. I was then even more dissatisfied with the answer I had received” (ibid.).  He goes on to write a mostly historical examination of the Lord’s Supper, looking at the debates and developments of church history.  At the end, he summarizes by saying, “…[younger Christians] desire to receive the meal more often. And some of them—as I did when I was younger—have started attending congregations that take Communion ever week” (53).  The reasons given are that each observance gives us the opportunity to focus on Jesus’ crucifixion, expresses the unity of the body, and reflects our personal identity in Christ (ibid.). In other words, it offers commemoration, examination, and expectation.  We need that on an ongoing basis, and the Lord knew we would.  That is why He pointed ahead to a certain frequency when He established it, saying He would do it again when He established His Kingdom (Mark 14:25).  Paul says it was to be done with a certain frequency (1 Cor. 11:25—”as often as”).  Thankfully, Luke shows us how frequently it was taken (Acts 20:7—”on the first day of the week”).  It is good to understand that the Bible establishes the frequency of our observation of the Lord’s Supper, but it is also important to know why we take it each week.  We look up, look back, look within, look around, and look ahead.  Our all-wise God knew we would need this every time we assembled with our spiritual family.  Though so many have lost sight of its frequency, may we never lose sight of its significance!

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MR. OBAMA’S EXAMPLE OF LEADERSHIP

Neal Pollard

As one who grows less political each day, I have hesitated to write anything that would look partisan or otherwise politically divisive.  The answer to man’s biggest problems starts with neither “R” nor “D” but rather “J” and “C.”  However, as one who loves our country, I am concerned at our president’s seeming and increasing aloofness, inattention, disengagement, and unconcern with international and domestic crises. The latest Rasmussen poll reveals that 45% of likely voters consider the president a poor leader (www.rasmussenreports.com). Earlier this year, a Gallup poll found that more Americans (53%) than not (41%) believe our president is not respected “on the world stage” (www.gallup.com). This may stem from the fact that he lacks, as Doug Mataconis suggests, “executive experience…” (Christian Science Monitor, 7/29/14). Even prominent people within the president’s party, like former AOL Time Warner CEO, describe themselves as “beyond disillusioned” at the chief executive’s “hugging and hobnobbing” rather than appearing more engaged in the various, volatile current situations.  Taken together, the growing disapproval of Barak Obama’s leadership stems from such things as apparent disinterest, failure to listen, inexperience, and blind adherence to an ideology without examining the specifics of a situation.

In every context, leadership is seen as an essential cog in the proper function of any organization.  If a church, a home, a company, a school, or a nation seem to be failing and floundering, look at leadership.  In a church, that includes especially elders but also preachers and deacons.  In a home, it is the father and husband. In a company, it’s the president or CEO.  In a school, it’s the principal, president, or director. Whatever the organization, it is fair to look at the example of the leadership.  Typically, everyone else in the organization has to live with the decisions and is effected by the direction of the leadership.

The church’s leaders will give an account (Heb. 13:17). The man of the home is likewise accountable (Eph. 5:22-6:4).  This holds true for leaders all the way up to the leaders of nations (Psa. 82:1; 110:5).  We all find ourselves in positions of responsibility and most of us serve in some leadership capacity.  Let us take seriously the accountability that we have to lead, be it children, the lost, neighbors, friends, or entire groups of people.

 

 

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“He Has Put A New Song In My Mouth”

Neal Pollard

Pollards love singing and music. A few (and they usually are those who marry into the family) actually know a few things about either or both. We are thankful that “joyful noise” does not mean “pleasant melody.”

David was probably quote the songster. The “sweet psalmist” wrote the Jewish hymn book, songs used by God’s people over the course of two covenants and hundreds and hundreds of years. We still sing songs inspired by his inspired psalms, and some songs are derived, verbatim, from the sacred text. In Psalm 40:3, David declares, “He has put a new song in my mouth.”

Isn’t that true? Maybe, you used to sing “Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen” or “Am I Blue?” Now, we sing, “I’m Happy Today” and “I’m Redeemed.” Our favorite song might have been “Let’s Talk About Me.” Now, our anthem is, “Make Me A Servant” and “In The Service Of My King.” It used to be that our theme song was “We Are Living In A Material World” but now it’s “This World Is Not My Home.” Maybe, we used to sing “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” but now we can sing “God’s Family.”

The difference Jesus makes to us hits every facet of our lives. It impacts the very songs in our hearts. Not only will we sing the new song in heaven some day, we have a new song now.

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“What Have You Done For Me Lately?”

 

Neal Pollard

This is not just something Janet Jackson once wondered.  The late summer and early fall of each year, college football programs have alumni, boosters, and fans asking head coaches the same thing.  Companies ask the same of employees, and stockholders ask it of companies.  While it can be an unfair question, it cannot be unfair if God asks it.

God has a perfect view of our lives, knowing not only what we’ve done for Him in our past but what we are doing now.  As He looks into our lives, could He be wondering, “What have you done for Me lately?”

  • “Have you won a soul to Me lately?”
  • “Have you been in My Word lately?”
  • “Have you been to My throne room in prayer lately?”
  • “Have you and I been close lately?”
  • “Have you been involved in My Son’s work lately?”
  • “Have you been the spiritual leader of your family lately?”
  • “Have you watched your example and attitude lately?”
  • “Have you been the source of unity in My Son’s body lately?”
  • “Have you encouraged a hurting, lonely soul lately?”

These and other questions are ones He has already asked in principle, when He addresses our hearts (Mat. 15:8-9), teaches us our responsibilities (Mat. 7:21), talks about our relationship with Him (Mat. 22:37), and examines our lifestyles (Mat. 5:13-16).  We may have studied with several people in the past, taught a Bible class at some point for a long period of time, and been very close to and in love with God in days gone by.  But how is it now?  Is that really a thing of the past or does it describe the current state of things?  The wonderful news is that you can start right now, building a better relationship with Him and serving Him more effectively.  Today is as “lately” as it gets.  If your zeal is zapped and your fruit has shriveled, get busy right now restoring that.  Obviously, God will see it and He will bless you for it!

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BE GRATEFUL

Neal Pollard
Frank Crowninshield related a time when Clarence Darrow spoke to a woman’s club on the civilization of ancient Phoenicians. He finished his lecture, and the chairlady said, “Oh, how can we thank Mr. Darrow for the fascinating lecture he has given us tonight?” Darrow returned to the podium and made one final observation: “I entirely forgot to tell you that it was the Phoenicians who first invented money.”
Darrow wanted to be properly “appreciated.” To him, that meant money. Today, in a world where the thank you note is getting to be like an ancient manuscript, where “common courtesy” is scarce, and “manners” are to too many a mystery, there is a great opportunity for a revolution and a revival. Our society is primed for thorough thankfulness. It is due employers, teachers, law enforcement, neighbors, friends, family (both physical and spiritual), waitresses, cashiers, and even strangers. But, most of all, it is due Almighty God!
It should be so natural to join in with David and ask, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me?” (Ps. 116:12). He answers both in this Psalm (“I will call upon Him and pay my vows to Him”-13-14) and in Psalm 103:2 (“Bless the Lord” and “forget not”). This gratitude will show itself in our giving, but it will also show itself in our living. By developing a spirit inclined to find blessings and express gratitude, we will draw people to the Lord. We will also improve every conversation, activity, and relationship in which we find ourselves.
New Testament writers repeatedly urge thankfulness and show it themselves (cf. Rom. 7:25; 1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 9:15; Eph. 5:4; Col. 3:15; etc.). New Testament Christians ought to be characterized by it, too. Sure, there will always be plenty about which to be depressed and discouraged-taxes, health, betrayal, disappointments, sorrows and losses. But, even in these things blessings and benefit can be found. The old adage, “Have an attitude of gratitude,” is the need of the hour. If you are wanting to shine like a light in a world of darkness (cf. Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:9), a grateful spirit will do the trick.

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Overcoming Bitterness

Neal Pollard

“Where was God when my child was killed by a drunk driver?” “I’ll never forgive brother Jones for that time he… He’s a big hypocrite!” “It’s not fair what they did to me. I hope they get theirs!” Persons raising clenched fists or pointed fingers and growling through gritting teeth epitomize that common, though unattractive, display of bitterness. Sadly, bitterness is not a disease confined to the alien sinner. Christians in crisis, dejected elders and preachers, and offended brethren are not immune to that sourness of spirit.

What, exactly, is BITTERNESS? Eadie says,

It is a figurative term denoting that fretted and irritable state of mind that keeps a man in perpetual animosity — that inclines him to harsh and uncharitable opinions of men and things — that makes him sour, crabby and repulsive in his general demeanor — that brings a scowl over his face and infuses venom into the words of his tongue (Rienecker, 534).

In motion, bitterness is a deadly snake. In result, it stings both predator and prey. In fruit, it is destructive. In category, it is sin! Ephesians 4:31, in part, reads, “Let all bitterness … be put away from you…” One source says of bitterness in this verse, “Bitterness is the opposite not only of sweetness but of kindness. It is the spite that harbors resentment and keeps a score of wrongs. Aristotle defined those who display it as ‘hard to be reconciled'” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 11:65).

Paul says such an attitude must be destroyed. It is to be replaced by the sweet, savory, Christian characteristics like kindness, tenderheartedness and forgiveness (Eph. 4:32). If ever one had cause to be bitter, surely the crucified Lord did. But he offered a prayer asking for the Father to forgive the spike-driving and ridicule-hurling sinners who placed him in such an agonizing position (Luke 23:34).

How can we overcome bitterness? First, by obeying God’s Word. Explicitly, New Testament writers warn Christians against bitter thoughts and behavior (Col. 3:19; Heb. 12:15; Rom. 3:14). Second, by imitating the forgiving attitude of Jesus (Eph. 1:7). Third, by crowding out angry and festering thoughts, replacing them with praiseworthy and virtuous thoughts (cf. Phi. 4:8). Fourth, by praying for those against whom you feel bitter (cf. Mat. 5:44).

Christians must not willfully harbor feelings of anger and resentment. Such produces hearts easily offended and easily provoked (cf. 1 Cor. 13:5). Bitterness is defeated by a perpetually cheerful and thankful heart. Everyone has problems. Yet, as John Henry Miller once said, “Circumstances and situations do color life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the color shall be.” As Paul wrote, “Let all bitterness be put away from you.”

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Profiting From A Penny

Neal Pollard

While walking down the hallway, I felt something lumpy in my left shoe. I pull off the shoe and, when I revived, I found that a penny was the aforementioned lump. The first thing I do when I find a penny is look at the date. This penny carried the date of 1964. It had that characteristic dark appearance of a well-loved penny, the shiny copper color long since faded. It had some scratches and had endured a bit of erosion.

Several things of a spiritual nature occurred to me about that 1964 penny.

It has been in service for a long time. Fifty years doing the same thing is amazing. George Blanda was still kicking a football at 48, and for that he is legendary. Others like Jerry Rice, Warren Moon, Doug Flutie, and Earl Morrall hung around into their 40s. Some of pro basketball’s greats played past the age of 40, including Kevin Willis, Robert Parish, Kareem, Bob Cousy, and Karl Malone. In Major League baseball, pitchers Satchel Paige and Jack Quinn played into their 50s.  A number of renowned pitchers made it to their late-40s. Four position players made it to their 50s, and the last guy most of us would remember to play so late in life was Julio Franco (49). It is not just sports. I regularly meet people who continue to have the opportunity and energy to bolster the U.S. workforce in their golden years.  We are living longer and healthier lives than our ancestors!

That penny continues to be spent and passed along the economic chain, having survived 13 presidential elections, an impeachment and a resignation. It was “born” in the days of mainframe computers and in the pre-moon space program era. It may have ridden in Martin Luther King’s pocket during the Civl Rights era. Still it spends. 

How i thank God for the longevity of service typified by our elders and many of our senior saints, who have worshipped and serviced God for so long. These golden, godly girls and gents were teaching Bible classes and Bible studies before many of us were born.

It has likely been used for its intended purpose wherever it has gone.  A penny cannot be substituted for a dollar or even a dime. It cannot be eaten without painful consequences. It will not text or play music. It will not work as a monocle or a magic marker. It is a penny. No doubt, it has been spent and “re-spent” for decades, with other money, for a variety of purchases. A penny is a denomination of money. That’s the value of a penny.

As I think of you and me, God has an intended purpose for us, too. As priests of God, we are to shine the light in darkness (1 Pe. 2:9). As disciples, were are to go into all the world with the gospel (Mark 16:15). Wherever we go, that’s why we’re here. We can work a job, have hobbies, play games, and be entertained, but that’s not the purpose of our sojourn here (cf. 1 Pe. 1:15-17). As Christians, we have been given a purpose as part of God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:9-11). Thus, like Christ, we must be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49).

It continues to circulate, though it can do relatively little. A penny is virtually worthless in our modern economy, but I am far from alone in picking up every penny I find (even those in my shoe!). Put a lot of pennies together and the value of what you have dramatically increases. 

You may think you have very little to contribute to the kingdom. Yet, when you join with others our collective value soars! God uses the little things from “average” Christians to do great things.

They say a penny saved is a penny earned. The penny I found may never be spent, but it has demonstrated its value to me.  Take heart!  Don’t be weary doing well.  Do what God has you here to do. Do your best whatever you can do!

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Jehoshaphat’s People

Neal Pollard

One of the last great periods of spiritual revival in Judah’s history before Babylonian Captivity occurred during the reign of Jehoshaphat.  This king is praised for seeking God, following His commandments, and not acting like Israel (2 Ch. 17:3-4). Jehoshaphat was greatly blessed by these decisions, he took pride in the Lord’s ways and sought to eradicate idolatry (5-6).  In the third year of his reign, Jehoshaphat sent his officials, the priests, and the Levites throughout Judah.  What we read in 2 Chronicles 17:9 is exemplary for us today.

  • They “taught.”  Men of varying backgrounds, abilities, personalities, and occupations united in the valuable enterprise of teaching. In all, 16 men are named as those who were tasked with this important job. Whatever we don’t know about them, we do know they were teachers.  Their work was so important that God saw fit to include them by name in His Book!  Certainly He still holds knowledgeable, diligent teachers in high regard today.  What a thrill it must be for Him to see His children willing and able to teach (cf. 1 Pe. 3:14-15). 
  • They taught “in Judah…among the people.” What was Judah? It was the place where God’s people resided. Strong churches have good teachers teaching them.  There is a resounding benefit when people get together and are subjected to healthy, beneficial teaching.  As it was then, so it is now.
  • They taught in Judah “having the book of the law of the Lord with them.” Jehoshaphat wanted to ensure the spiritual literacy of his subjects, knowing God wanted that, too. God still longs for His people to know, show, and grow (2 Pe. 3:18). Too often, our teaching can lack a biblical focus.  We do not need more “what I thinks” and “what happened to me’s.” We need more rich teaching from “the book of the law of the Lord.”

Despite some later foolish and even sinful choices, Jehoshaphat was on target to send teachers for Judah’s benefit.  In the end, he instituted needed, helpful reforms, and relied on God in prayer.  He fell short, but perhaps it was his anchor in the law of God that kept him from drifting away from Him.  Our hope and future is tied to how faithfully we follow God, but we must know what God wants to do that.  And we can only know what God wants by knowing His Word. God bless the teachers that help us to do just that!

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Our Brethren Are Suffering

Neal Pollard

The United Nations’ very conservative estimate is that well over 2,000 people have died in the Donetsk region of Eastern Ukraine in fighting between that nation’s government have clashed with separatists.  So many of the towns and cities in the region have congregations of God’s people, many of their preachers trained in our foreign extension school that for years was in Kramatorsk and of late has been in Gorlovka. One of our graduates reports that two gospel preachers have been kidnapped this month, though one of them has since been released.  Our brethren in Ukraine have been facing the terror of daily bombing and shooting as well as fear for their safety when they assemble.

The ebola outbreak is an ongoing health concern and it is not yet contained.  Nations affected include Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and even Nigeria.  One of two Americans on medical missions in Liberia, Dr. Kent Brantly, is a member of the church.  While its not clear whether any of our native brethren in these African nations have gotten sick or died, they certainly feel the threat and concern of a disease that claims between 50 and 90 percent of those who contract it. 

Around the world at any given time, we have brothers and sisters who face health scares, hunger, harm, and hatred.  Persecution, natural disaster, famine, and war are no respecter of persons, and “our people” are often affected.  How they need our constant prayers as well as whatever assistance we can prudently provide.

On our pews in the local church, though without the drama and press coverage, there are always those who are struggling with hurts, heartaches, health, home, and hardship.  They may not trumpet their complaints or even publicly ask for encouragement, silently suffering.  As we interact with each other, let us keep in mind the potential hidden concerns and burdens being borne.  

Paul encourages us, in the spirit of unity, to “have the same care for one another” (1 Co. 12:25). He tells Colosse, “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col. 3:12). He tells Philippi to to look out “for the interests of others” (Phi. 2:4).  Are we busy and bothered by our own concerns? Certainly! But may we ever cultivate greater sensitivity toward the silent suffering of our spiritual family, both near and far.

Members of the Slavyansk church of Christ (including a BVBIU graduate from our first class) holding bomb shrapnel that exploded near the church building. Photo Credit: Jeff Abrams.

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