HOLY HILL DWELLERS

Neal Pollard

In Psalm 15, David shows us who is fit to be pleasing to God. I had a general physical and check up on my 30th and 40th birthdays.  I’ll have to say I was more pleased w/the results of the first one. Surprisingly, I found out that I should exercise more, eat less and weigh less.  While I didn’t like what I heard, I heard what I needed to hear. Though I’ve taken the exercise advise more seriously than the eating advice, I know that my physical health depends on my compliance.

Psalm 15 is a fitness test regarding our spiritual health. What does it take to please God in my morality and ethics?I find it interesting that what the Lord puts in His battery of tests is surprisingly difficult, and many good people, even basically good Christians, fail miserably at some of them. But if I don’t want to be shaken (5), I need to submit to this check up.

To dwell on the Lord’s holy hill, I need…

  • Properly working arms and legs (2-3).  The Lord sets forth an agility test for us.
  • We must walk with integrity (this refers to our character, a matter the entire book of Psalms begins with (1:1). We live so that the person we see in the mirror is one we can legitimately admire as wholesome, honest, and honorable).
  • We must work righteousness (this refers to our conduct, how we treat others and deal with them. Are we one people love or dread to see, and are we seen as a cutthroat, back-stabber, and ankle biter or as one who portrays the godly life of Matthew 5:16?).
  • A strong heart (2). No conditioning test is any good that doesn’t check the heart.  God requires truth in our innermost part (Ps. 51:6). A strong heart is a sincere one, one that makes us genuine and transparent. You won’t hear one thing in public but something contradictory in private, but you’ll get consistent truthfulness. One who tells you one thing but lacks sincerity and truth is not one who is going to pass the heart test.
  • A healthy mouth (3-4). Isn’t it amazing how much time God spends examining our mouths.  Even the heart test is connected to the mouth (2). An untamed tongue is an audacious, destructive, reckless, condemned thing (just read James 3:5-10).  Every one of us, to one degree or another, would be mortified if we could hear a recording of the things we’ve said—in anger, gossip, malice, slander, and dishonesty.  Particularly, the Psalmist says “slander” will keep one from the temple. This is an epidemic problem, made worse by the presumption we have that our speech is covered somehow by an exemption. Slander is sinful—it discourages good works because people get gun-shy of criticism, it kills morale as a backbiting atmosphere is unpleasant, and it hinders relationships because it destroys trust.  A tongue can lead a beautiful prayer, teach an amazing Bible class, preach a beautiful sermon and sing like the angels—only to be heard whispering backbiting words, running someone down, or criticizing someone.
  • Excellent eyesight (4). No routine exam is complete without looking at the eyes.  The righteous sees the wayward as God sees them. He doesn’t excuse or defend them as they willfully engage in sin. He sees the evil as God sees them.  That doesn’t mean the righteous won’t try to spiritually win them, but he doesn’t condone them as they live without contrition.

The Psalmist calls for an overall clean bill of health. The spiritually healthy keeps his word, doesn’t take advantage of the needy, and doesn’t betray the innocent. This is an exam we must pass.  How is your spiritual health in light of this heavenly health check?

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SARCASTIC, STORMY SQUABBLES AMONG THE SAINTS

Neal Pollard

(Imagine The Following 1st-Century Social Media Thread)

“Apostles And Disciples On Facebook”

James of Jerusalem: I believe the gospel should only go to the Jews. Or at least we should circumcise Gentiles who want to become Christians.
Simon Peter: Poor James.  I used to think that way, too.  But I know better.  You should check with Cornelius and his people.
James of Jerusalem: Where did you get your education?  The Samaritans?! LOL
Paul, the Tarsus Teacher: James, James, James.  I used to be right where you were.  I even had to set ole Petey straight because of you troublemakers.  You just keep turning up like a bad denarii.
Apollos: Apparently, the pedagogical philosophy of the Jerusalem saints is as circumscribed as the Strait of Sicily.  My buddy Paul always cuts straight to the point.  What do you have to say for yourself, J.J.?
Barnabas: Guys, let’s not make this personal.  Let’s deal with the issue. OK?
Simon Peter: Barnabas, did somebody steal your man card? Ha ha!  Jimmy, are you going to answer Paul’s powerful point?  Or will you crawl back into your cave?
Apollos: Well… James?
Simon Peter: Apollos and Paul, that’s just the way “brother” James is.  Hit and run. SMH!

OK. So, the apostles and disciples did not have social media in the first-century.  But if they did, is the sample above how we would imagine them discussing the issues between them?  Church leaders did meet to discuss a matter similar to the imaginary scenario just depicted.  It is recorded in Acts 15. There was sharp dispute and debate with them (3). There was much discussion (7).  Imagine what you’d like about what was said and how it was said, but look at what the Holy Spirit preserved. There was lots of Scripture quoted.  Love and civility carried the day.  Even in Galatians two, when there were issues of actual prejudice, they handled the matter head on.  But there was no vilifying, name-calling, or slanderous libeling of brethren.

How is it that some among us have lost the ability to discuss passionately without attacking personally?  Especially if our intent is to be a part of restoring first-century Christianity, why would we think we could exempt ourselves from the spirit and attitude faithful brethren exhibited as they sought to work together for the cause of Christ? This is baffling!

Certainly, we live in tumultuous times. Truth has been redefined and the church is being pressed by some enormous, identity-changing issues (i.e., same-sex marriage, an expanded women’s role in teaching and church leadership, the contention that the idea of non-denominational Christianity or the singular nature of the church is arrogant and false, etc.).  There are a great many other matters that merit discussion, but no matter what we are addressing we cannot—especially before the eyes of the world—fail to exhibit the love Jesus commanded His disciples show.  “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

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“Redemption Is Tailor-Made For The Wretched”

Neal Pollard

If you did not know the source of this quote already, you might be hard-pressed to guess it.  This was said by Stanley “Tookie” Williams, two weeks before he was executed in California in 2005 for four 1979 murders he committed while the apparent leader of The Crips gang in Los Angeles.  Though he vehemently proclaimed his innocence in these deaths to the very end, he freely admitted that drugs, robbery, gang- violence and other crimes were very much a part of his life before prison.  Redemption, as he understood it, “is not predicated on color or race or social stratum or one’s religious background.  It’s accessible for everybody. That’s the beauty about it” (interview with Amy Goodman, WBAI). Williams, who became a prolific author of anti-gang books while on death row, has left behind enough writing to indicate he did not have a biblical understanding of redemption, which is truly tragic because the ideas quoted are certainly biblical.

The word “wretched” is used “of a person in a very unhappy or unfortunate state” (New Oxford American Dictionary, online).  The New Testament uses the word twice.  Interestingly, the first time it is used by one who was all-too-aware of his wretchedness, but who rejoiced at the possibility of redemption (Rom. 7:24-25).  The second time it is used by a church, Laodicea, who didn’t know they were wretched but were told by Christ they were (Rev. 3:17). A form of the word is also used in another place, where Christians struggling with worldliness are told to be wretched over their sinful lifestyle (Jas. 4:9, see ESV).  The common thread between these verses is that wretchedness is related to redemption.  One must recognize their unfortunate state if they hope to be redeemed.

One of the great ironies of life is that so many are racked with guilt but are also skilled in justifying and defending the very behavior that produces it.  Many others rest in their confident belief that they are, overall, good and moral people who don’t really need redemption.  To deny or rationalize the sin in our life will cause our most imposing problem to remain unresolved.  To humble ourselves and admit our wretchedness apart from Christ can lead us to redemption. It doesn’t matter your race, color, income level, or background.  Redemption is tailor-made for the wretched!

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DETERMINED TO GET OUT THE NEWS

Neal Pollard

I spoke with our newspaper deliveryman this morning, and he had some story to tell.  He summarized his experience as the longest 15 hours of his life.  He got stuck once and had been towed twice.  He delivers his newspapers in a 2014 Toyota Camry, a front-wheel drive vehicle fighting against 10-12 inches of snow in a thousand cul-de-sacs.  Surprisingly cheerful, he was plodding on until finishing his task—delivering The Denver Post to every customer on his route.  That, my friend, is dedication!

As a former subscriber to the Rocky Mountain News and current subscriber to the Post, I cannot describe his product as “good news.”  With the internet competing, the newspaper is far from the exclusive or timeliest source of news.  That notwithstanding, this man is determined to get out the news.

The gospel is, by definition, “good news.”  Without a doubt, it is the most important and timeliest news of all time and eternity.  Every person needs to be exposed to it as it contains information that will impact where they will spend their forever.  God has given the job to you and me and every Christian in this nation and around the globe. Every day, we see people and relate to people on their everlasting journey.  They may or may not be oblivious to their need, but we are well aware of it.

Are we determined to get out the news?  The first century church was.  In bad times (Acts 8:4) or in good times (Acts 2:47), the news went near and far.  Paul described it as news which had reached every creature under heaven (Col. 1:23).  Christ commissioned that the news be spread to that extent (Lk. 24:44ff).  The challenge is great today, with over seven billion people on the earth.  But we have more resources than they did, and there are more of us, too.  The difference, then, may be the level of our determination.  Until we are determined to let nothing stop us from getting out the news, darkness will eclipse light and our challenge will grow.  Let’s let nothing stop us from sharing the great salvation of Jesus to everyone we meet.

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“WINNING THE LOTTERY”

Neal Pollard

One of the most recent lottery winners, Jesus Davila, Jr., has an interesting backstory.  He once spent 12 years behind bars for the manufacturing and selling of cocaine, a felony.  This week, he claimed $127 million after taxes.  Sounds like a rags to riches kind of story, doesn’t it?  It is interesting, and not a little sad, to read about some past winners of the lottery:

  • Ibi Roncaioli was murdered by her husband after giving $2 million of her $5 million dollar prize to a secret child she’d had with another man (businessinsider.com).
  • Evelyn Adams won twice, in 1985 and 1986, winning a total of $5.4 million. She gambled it away in Atlantic City and lives in a trailer park today (ibid.).
  • Willie Hurt won $3.1 million in 1989, but spent it all on a horrible crack addiction, divorced his wife, lost custody of his children, and was charged with attempted murder (ibid.).
  • Victoria Zell won $11 million in 2001, but went to prison convicted of a drug and alcohol-induced car collision that killed one and paralyzed another (theatlantic.com).
  • Abraham Shakespeare won $31 million in 2006. He disappeared in 2009, after having spent most of his fortune. He was found under a concrete slab in 2010, a woman accused of fleecing him for nearly $2 million charged with his murder (ibid.).
  • Jack Whittaker, already wealthy when he won $314 million in 2002, suffered too many calamities to mention here, but they include the death of his granddaughter and daughter and being sued for writing bounced checks to casinos. He was quoted as saying, “I wish I’d torn that ticket up” (ibid.).
  • Bud Post won $16.2 million, but squandered it.  His brother was arrested for hiring a hit man to try and kill him. He died of respiratory failure in 2006, living on $450 a month and food stamps. He once said, “I wish it never happened. It was totally a nightmare” (cleveland.com).
  • Jeffrey Dampier won $20 million in 1996. In 2005, he was kidnapped, robbed and murdered by his sister-in-law and her boyfriend (ibid.).

To say there are mountains of additional, equally pitiful stories is to understate the matter.  Certainly, not every one who wins the lottery winds up on skid row or in the morgue because of it.  Yet, neither is it the panacea one might believe it to be.  How many others, who can ill afford to play, squander money on a regular basis in the hopes of striking it rich?  The overwhelming majority will never achieve that, but even many that do wind up worse than before they won.

In the ever-elusive search for happiness and satisfaction, mankind will come up empty when looking to material things for the answer.  Jesus taught that it’s a hollow pursuit (Mat. 6:19).  Paul says not “to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17).  Jesus warned that your life does not consist of your possessions, even if you have an abundance of them (Lk. 12:15).  The good news is that there is a true treasure, one that never disappoints, that never depletes, and will never go away.  Peter calls it “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Pet. 1:4).  Strive to “win” that!

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How to Read Your Compass

preacherpollard:

Excellent ideas for compasses and Bibles, too!

Originally posted on Life and Favor (Job 10:12):

A compass is an instrument used for direction.  It helps determine where you are and how to get where you want to go.  Hopefully the Bible is your compass.

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

In an article entitled, “How to Read a Compass,” the Compass Dude shares the benefits of owning one, “from telling which way is North to finding hidden treasure or following an unmarked path over wilderness terrain”  (http://www.compassdude.com/compass-reading.shtml). But to reap those benefits, you have to know how to accurately read a compass.

1.  Know Your Basic Compass Reading

The Compass Dude explains the essential basics of how to read a compass:

  • “Hold the compass steadily in your hand…”  The compass will be no use at all if we don’t pull it out and use it.  If it stays in our pocket or…

View original 419 more words

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Enthusiasm Is Contagious!

Neal Pollard

Have you seen The Weather Channel’s Jim Cantore video where he is ebulliently exulting over the thunder snow he witnesses and knows to be captured by his cameraman?  The YouTube video montage where he is on camera for six lightning strikes says it all.  At one point, he implies that he’d rather experience this weather event than win the $500 million lottery.  The enthusiasm is transparent and honest.  You can’t help to feel excited about what he’s excited about because he so enthusiastically expresses it.

Being a Christian is not necessarily a non-stop fist-pumping, mountain-top experience.  The late Wendell Winkler used to say that there are not very many mountain-top or valley days but that most were “in between.”  He called it “the glory of the ordinary.”  What we do on the ordinary days is what typically makes the bigger impact.  However, the genuine enthusiasm of Christians is certainly contagious!  Some of the best church leaders I have known have known how to inject others with zeal.  Other words are “passion,” “desire,” and “excitement.”  If this is artificial and contrived, it is eventually detected. True enthrallment for pursuing the will of God, though rare, leaves its mark far and wide.

What should fire our enthusiasm?

  • A baptism
  • A wayward Christian being restored
  • A well-delivered, challenging, and biblically accurate lesson
  • A demonstration of decisive, godly leadership
  • A challenge to growth or involvement
  • Godly conviction from our youth
  • Hearing of a good work within our brotherhood
  • Singing in worship
  • A sound idea for church growth
  • The dedication shown by a spiritual brother or sister

Challenge yourself.  Ask, “What gets me excited?”  If the Georgia Bulldogs were to ever win the National Championship again, look out world!  I’d give those around me a “Jim Cantore” moment.  My honest prayer is, “Lord, help my greatest passion and enthusiasm be reserved for the things that will endure after the heavens and the elements burn and melt” (2 Pet. 3:11).  Let’s get excited about serving Jesus and doing His will!

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GET READY!

Neal Pollard

As one who can count on one hand the number of snow events experienced in childhood, I have lived the last decade in Colorado where snow is more ordinary than oddity. Even so, the meteorological chatter is much higher in advance of an anticipated big storm this weekend. Because almost all my adult life has been spent in either Virginia or Colorado, we have heard many warnings.  In both places, it has seemed as though the weather experts were akin the boy crying wolf.  At the same time, in both places, we have had some huge surprises measured in feet rather than inches.

Perhaps because of this, locals in both places have at times been jaded and skeptical at these fearsome forecasts.  Their facial expressions say, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  Why not? I remember a time in Virginia when the forecast was a foot of snow, all metro county schools closed in anticipation, and the next pre-dawn morning revealed starry skies without even a cloud.  Man, even with sophisticated radar and computer models, are at the mercy of the complexities of weather put in motion millennia ago by an all-powerful Creator.

We should not make the mistake of thinking God is like man (Ps. 50:21; Ezek. 28:2).  When He speaks of things to come, it is not mere prognostication or educated guessing.  He declares the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10).  Thus, whatever He says is to come must not be dismissed.  It is a promise, as certain as His perfect character.

Throughout the New Testament, God is telling us to get ready for a day of judgment.  When writers say, “The Son of Man is going to come” (Mat. 16:27), “an hour is coming” (John 5:28-29), “all the nations will be gathered before Him” (Mat. 25:32), and the like, we should not expect a change in that forecast.  Just because it has not happened yet does not mean it will not come.  Peter warned of those who would say, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4).  Nonetheless, Scripture says, “Get ready!” We don’t know when, but we should not wonder if.

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“THE UNIVERSE IS ETERNAL”

Neal Pollard

Articles across the scientific community of late have been postulating a similar idea. Astrophysicist Brian Koberlein suggests that there was no single point in space and time when matter was infinitely dense, saying, “The catch is that by eliminating the singularity, the model predicts that the universe had no beginning. It existed forever as a kind of quantum potential before ‘collapsing’ into the hot dense state we call the Big Bang. Unfortunately many articles confuse ‘no singularity’ with ‘no big bang’” (briankoberlein.com). One of the most recent darlings of this explanations are Ahmed Farag Alia and Saurya Das, whose paper “Cosmology from quantum potential” is being cited by quantum physicists and astrophysicists.  As this gets traction, there should be a trickle down effect until the broader scientific community embraces this idea.

Let’s hope so!

It could be a pivotal moment in the creation versus evolution debate.  Why?  When you wade through the technical, obtuse jargon, this theory concludes that the universe is eternal.  We all know that something has always had to exist.  Our options are “intelligent, moral, animate mind” or “mindless, amoral, inanimate matter.”  The faith factor has just multiplied by a centillion for those wanting a God-less explanation.  The same argument they have tried to level against those believing in intelligent design and creation applies to them.  How did that eternal matter get here?

Here’s the difference between the two arguments.  Matter not only had to “create” itself, it also had to develop (evolve?) intelligence, morality, purpose, etc.  The Bible reveals an intelligent designer (Creator) with inherent morality, purpose, and sufficient power and energy to make it all.  “It’s too simplistic,” they say.  “How quaint!”  But to a person who is truly trying to approach these two explanations with open-minded fairness, which of these two ideas will seem more plausible?  It won’t even be a fair contest!

Let’s hope this latest attempt to explain our origin finds favor among those who “say there is no God” (Ps. 14:1) and who “suppress the truth” (Rom. 1:18ff).  Maybe it will help more honest searchers “find” God (Acts 17:27). I think it will!

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Disturbed

Neal Pollard

The ISIS beheadings so frequently in the news and readily available on the internet are terrifying to behold and consider.  If terrorism is, as the Mac Dictionary defines it, “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” such would be terrorist activity.  The latest spectacle, involving 21 “Coptic Christians” (Egyptian Orthodox religion), seems to show the Islamic State organization is eager to isolate and persecute those seeking to follow Christ.

Do you ever wonder if there will come a day where New Testament Christians in this country may face the threat of death for standing up for Christ?  It has certainly happened to God’s people in the past, especially when the church was first established.  We read about the persecution that started with Stephen then extended to the saints at Jerusalem in the book of Acts.  We read of individuals like Paul, who suffered for Christ on many occasions (2 Cor. 11).  Then, there are the statements made to encourage Christians who might be rattled or scared at the prospect of such treatment.  Twice, writing the Thessalonians, Paul was concerned they would be disturbed by trouble (1 Th. 3:3; 2 Th. 2:2).  He wrote about how persecution was, at times, inevitable (Ph. 1:29; 1 Th. 3:4; 2 Tim. 2:3; 1 Pt. 3:14).  Of course, Christ showed us His way includes suffering (1 Pt. 2:21ff).

The Bible also gives us great encouragement in the face of the disturbing prospect of suffering for our faith.  Consider a few highlights:

  • We can rejoice if counted worthy of suffering for Christ (Acts 5:41).
  • Those who suffer with Him will be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).
  • Suffering can give one a clearer perspective and priority (Phil. 3:8).
  • Suffering is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that we’ll be counted worthy of His Kingdom (2 Th. 1:5).
  • It finds favor with God if we are faithful through our sufferings (1 Pt. 2:19).
  • It is better to suffer for doing right than doing wrong (1 Pt. 4:17).
  • We can entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Pt. 4:19).
  • The God of all grace will comfort those who suffer (1 Pt. 5:10).

I don’t think any of us relish or welcome the thought of suffering under any circumstances.  Yet, God has communicated these truths to us to help us decide in these potential trials.  Perhaps it will help us be less disturbed and more determined to be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).

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