Who Is Behind This “Race War”?

Neal Pollard

I’m a child of the ‘80s, which, in south Georgia, seemed to be “post-racist.” Maybe it was the naivety of youth, but one of my closest friends, Greg Gwyn, was black. We were “Bird” and “Magic” (on the basketball court, at least in our minds). We were “Crockett” and “Tubbs.” We both rejected, out of hand, the notion of being “Wonder” and “McCartney” (too cheesy). While our High School had cliques, a timeless problem, they were determined more by interest than race. Sure, there was prejudice, as that is also timeless. But it was not the mainstream attitude.

I have preached full-time for three congregations, in Alabama, Virginia, and Colorado. All three are integrated, having not only “white-collar” (forgive the adage) professionals but also inner city representation among our African-American members. But, all three have wealthy and poor caucasians, too. Individuals in all three congregations probably struggled with making all kinds of arbitrary distinctions, including on the basis of race, but such attitudes have not been fostered. If uncovered, they are addressed with the power and authority of Scriptures like “God is not one to show partiality…” (Acts 10:34), “He made from one man every nation of mankind…” (Acts 17:26), “There is neither Jew nor Greek…for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28), “Do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism” (James 2:1; and, if you do, “have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives,” vs. 4), etc. Our elders, deacons, Bible class teachers, and general leaders in these congregations, men like Kevin Turner, Ron Herman, Bill Burton, Jimmy Reynolds, Ron Thompkins, Joe Cook, King Taylor, and Ronnie Royster, would not be thought of in terms of their race if not for the point of this article.

So, as we see fiery debate, protests, wagon-encircling, hatred, and acerbic rhetoric, scratching our heads as to how all-consuming it has become, do we stop to ask who would be behind such division and strife? No, I don’t mean Republicans or Democrats, protest groups or activists, or hobby horse riders among brethren.  I think it is more sinister and serious. Who is ever behind separating not just mankind, but the Lord’s bride? Who benefits from people building walls to keep out others on any arbitrary basis? Who wins in the face of such crushing losses? Maybe we need to be asking that question and focusing on that issue more!

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Preach Him!

Preach Him…

  • In spite of opposition.
  • When men sin.
  • When men hurt.
  • When the world is on the brink of disaster.
  • When all forsake you.
  • When the stakes are high.
  • When men don’t listen.
  • When anguish sweeps over your soul.
  • When it is not popular.
  • To all men…black…white…rich…poor…educated…uneducated…nice…hateful…friends….enemies…high…low…
  • When paid and when not paid.
  • When you have to stand alone.
  • When exhausted.
  • When it would be easier not to.
  • To those who listen…those who will not listen…with hearts open…with hearts closed
  • Till Jesus comes.
Preach him!   –Billy Lambert, 2016 Bear Valley Lectures
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Answering Our Accusers

Neal Pollard

There was a time when it was possible to engage in respectful, loving dialogue with brothers and sisters we disagreed with or had a problem with. Even if we felt passionately, we could discuss it civilly and retain or even strengthen our relationship with our “disputant.” We should be thankful that there are still many who are open to such a biblical methodology.  However, there are some who seem intent only on winning the day, seizing some perceived moral or doctrinal high ground, or championing what appears to be a self-serving cause. Some of these same individuals are rife with rancorous rhetoric, baiting or calling out those they seem to see as enemies or the guilty. When we are called out, are we scripturally obligated to answer them or defend ourselves? Or, as the late Wendell Winkler put it, are we simply giving them a platform to spread their extreme views?

For the minority of brethren whose minds are made up, no matter what, or who seem eager to tangle, the question is whether or not it is necessary or helpful to answer their accusations.  I realize there were circumstances like 2 Corinthians where Paul, who was innocent, wrote by inspiration to defend himself. But I also remember when the Lord stood before Herod, Pilate and the Jews and “answered…nothing” (Mat. 27:12; Mark 15:3,5; Luke 23:9; Isa. 53:7). While none of us are nearly so good as our Lord, He is the example we are to strive to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). Before answering an accuser, it is wise to determine the following:

  • What is my motivation for answering? Is it to save face for myself? Is it to somehow punish or put my accusers in their place? Is it to prove I’m right and they are wrong? Pride, anger, and hurt feelings are not proper motivations for answering an accuser.
  • What do I hope to accomplish by answering? Will I change their minds or those to whom they pander? Are they actually desirous of an answer? Will I rescue my reputation or harm it by going to their level?
  • What are the ethics of my accusers? Is this a hobby or obsession of theirs (i.e., do they have a pattern and history of doing this with others)? Do they have the facts straight? Do they assert things as facts that are quantifiably wrong? If so, will they deal honestly with the answers I give them or twist them to suit their own agenda?

Here is the judgment call we have to make. Solomon gives divergent advice in Proverbs 26 when he says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes” (4-5). Sometimes you do, and sometimes you don’t.  Perhaps the Lord has placed that ball in our court, trusting us to use our judgment. If my Lord’s name and cause is threatened, I will be ready to jump to His defense. If someone tries to do that with my name, I should be more careful and if this is a means to allow the common sense observer to look at both of our works and discern each of our characters, may I have the patience and maturity to see it as an opportunity to fulfill Matthew 5:38-48. We don’t have to attend every fight people goad us to join.

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How Determined Are You?

Neal Pollard

Karoly Takacs has one of the most interesting stories in Olympic History. The right-handed pistol marksman and sergeant in the Hungarian Army was a world-class shooter, but was denied an opportunity to compete in the 1936 games since only commissioned officers could compete. That prohibition was lifted after these games and Takacs anticipated competing in 1940, but a faulty grenade exploded in his right hand during army training in 1938. Unbeknownst to the Polish public, Karoly began practicing shooting with his left hand. He showed up at the 1939 Hungarian National Pistol Shooting Championship, and when other competitors came to offer condolences about his accident, he said, “I didn’t come to watch, I came to compete.” In fact, he won those games. But, he was unable to compete in the 1940 or 1944 Olympic Games because they were not held due to World War II. By the time of the 1948 games, held in London, Takacs was 38 years old. But, he qualified and won the Gold Medal there. Then, he turned around and did it again at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He barely missed qualifying in 1956!  For this, he holds a place as one of Poland’s greatest Olympic heroes of all time (information via Quora.com authors Ankur Singh and Swati Kadyan).

In the New Testament, God shows us how beautiful proper determination is. Starting with Jesus’ determination to save us from our sins, as we read about Him because of anticipated joy “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:1), we find the greatest example of resolve. But, then there was Paul. Before conversion, he was determined to exterminate the Christians (read Acts 26:9-11). After being won to Christ, he refocused his determination toward winning as many as possible to Christ (1 Cor. 2:2; 9:24-27) and he urged others to do the same (2 Tim. 2:1-6; Tit. 3:8; etc.). No one will make it to heaven without making a determined effort to do so. That does not mean that anyone will earn their salvation, but it just as true that no one accidentally goes to heaven. The way Jesus put it is, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). How badly do you want to go to heaven? What are you willing to give up in order to go there?

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Gleanings From The 2016 Bear Valley Lectures

Neal Pollard

  • We were honored with so many, enthusiastic guests (not including speakers and their families, we had brothers and sisters attending from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming). Most of the Denver-metro area congregations had representation and nearly 30 congregations throughout the state were represented.
  • We were blessed by great congregational participation (this huge undertaking is underwritten financially by the Bear Valley Bible Institute and everyone associated with the school is involved in multiple tasks, but the Bear Valley congregation donated food, cooked for the banquet, helped set up, move things, and “break down” tables, chairs, providing security, coordinating parking, and the like, and attended in unprecedented fashion. From the leadership down, there was much support from the home crowd. This church is taking increasing “ownership” of this great, annual event).
  • We were reminded that God’s people want to hear from “The Book” (our textual studies continue to be popular with men, women, and teens. The ability to “walk through” a book of the Bible was met with constant, thoughtful compliments and enthusiasm! Letting God speak through His inspired Word is an unbeatable approach).
  • We were treated to great preaching and teaching throughout (it was put many ways, like “there was not a dud in the bunch,” “there was no let down, not even for one session,” and “there wasn’t a session you felt like you could skip to do something else.” That is a tribute to the men and women who handled their assignments so superlatively. So many good things were said about how rich and encouraging this year’s program was).
  • We were witnesses to continued growth (the first fact above gives insight into the fact that our attendance continues to climb.  We set attendance records at one session on Friday and five on Saturday, and we came close to matching records at several other sessions throughout the weekend. It was great seeing a “full house” throughout the lectureship).
  • We were made even more proud of our alumni (some of the most “rave reviews” about sessions concerned our alumni who spoke. We got to see and hear about the progress and success our graduates are having in their local works. So many of our former students showed up from near and far to support this year’s program. We learned at the banquet that, once again, a large number of our current student body received encouragement to come from our graduates. We want to deepen and strengthen our tie with the men who came through our school).
  • We were left anticipating an even better year next year (would you begin to make your plans, even now, to be a part of the 2017 Bear Valley Lectures? I hope so!).

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Avoiding A Ride On An Ancient Cycle

Neal Pollard

It has been called “The Dark Ages Of The Old Testament.” During the period of the judges, there was moral, economic, social, political and religious decline. We often read that, during this time, the children of Israel did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.

History keeps repeating itself in the book of Judges. The people do evil, God allows and oppressor to persecute them, the people turn back to God and plead for deliverance, and God raises up a deliverer to defeat the oppressor and deliver Israel. Here, we speak of the “cycle” of Judges: sin, servitude, sorrow, supplication, and salvation.

Their enemy invaders came from the East (Mesopotamia), the Southeast (Moab), the North (Canaan), the East (Midian and Ammon), and the Southwest (Philistia). It is interesting that Israel overcame Canaan in the militarily brilliant strategy orchestrated by God (Central Canaan—Josh. 7-8, Southern Canaan—Josh. 9-10, and then Northern Canaan—Josh. 11-12). As a result of Israel’s failure to utterly destroy the inhabitants of Canaan, the six oppressions came from the central, south, and north—each places where God had given them victory. What a reminder that when we don’t defeat the enemy, he will return! The enemy was sin!

Here is my summary of the book of Judges, as seen in Judges 2:16-19:

  • The rulers—“Judges”
  • The role—“Delivered”
  • The rescued—“Them” (Israel)
  • The rivals—“Those” (God’s enemies)
  • The ruination—“Plundered them” (oppression)
  • The refusal—“They did not listen to their judges”
  • The reveling—“Played the harlot after other gods”
  • The retreat—“Turned said quickly”
  • The right road—“In which their fathers had walked”
  • The role models—“Father, obeying the commands of the Lord”
  • The resolution—“They did not so”
  • The raising—“The Lord raised them up judges”
  • The relationship—“The Lord was with the judges”
  • The restoration—“Delivered them from the hand of their enemies”
  • The repentance—“The Lord was moved to pity” (KJV—“It repented the Lord because of their groanings…”)
  • The return—“When their judge died, they would turn back”
  • The retrogression—“Acted more corruptly than their fathers”
  • The resilience—“Didn’t abandon their practice or stubborn ways”

The judge was the savior of the people. Time and time again, the people put themselves in a position to need some serious rescue, and our long-suffering God was willing to soften His heart to their cries. Eventually, His patience ran out and even in this time period there were severe consequences. How often do we need the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of the Father? Often, we need forgiveness for the same sins repeatedly. We wonder how Israel could fall into the same traps, but we do well to identify and avoid them in our own times. We have the benefit of both Old and New Testament Scripture, and they would have only had the writings of Moses and Joshua when they lived. May we learn from these ancient lessons (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11) and stay off that ancient cycle.

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What Would Our Slogan Be?

Neal Pollard

A Bear Valley member gave me a mailer she received from a new, area denomination.  The oversized postcard, in attractive colors (the background of which looks to be a paint palette), leads with the header, “Messy Grace.” The subtitle reads, “It’s okay to not be okay.” The brief message beneath says, “God loves you. God cares for you. God wants a relationship with you. NO MATTER WHAT!”  Now, there is a lot of truth in that message, if we don’t necessarily care for some of the jargon. Could it leave a wrong impression? Yes, if the message does not include the response we need to make to His amazing grace. We cannot stay messy, if that means willful sin. But we will all continue to have our messes, even after coming to Him.

But, the mailer itself, with the self-appointed slogan, is what got me to thinking. If our visitors got to write our slogan, what would it be? For some places I’ve visited, it could be the following: “Don’t Sit On My Pew!”, “Race You To The Restaurants!”, “Visitors? What Visitors?”, “Joy Is For Liberals”, or “Are You Ready To Rumble?”  If the Lord wrote our slogan, what would it be?  For some congregations He diagnosed, it was also less than flattering: “We’ve Left Our First Love” (Rev. 2:5), “We’re Following False Teachers” (Rev. 2:14-16), “We Tolerate Immorality” (Rev. 2:20ff), “We Look Alive, But We’re Really Dead” (Rev. 3:1), and “We Think We’re Something Great, But We’re In Really Bad Shape” (Rev. 3:15ff).

Here at Bear Valley, there are several potential slogans I would hope represent who we are and what we are trying to convey by the way we act when we’re together on Sunday and Wednesday as well as our interaction at other times. Here are some good options:

  • “We Love One Another” (John 13:35).
  • “We Walk In Truth” (3 John 4).
  • “We Continue In His Word” (John 8:31).
  • “We Bear One Another’s Burdens” (Gal. 6:2).
  • “We Like Being Together” (Acts 2:42ff).
  • “We Look For Our Lost Sheep” (Luke 15:4).
  • “We Know Who The Enemy Is” (Eph. 6:11).
  • “We’re Not Conformed But Transformed” (Rom. 12:2).
  • “We Put Others Before Self” (Phil. 2:3-4).
  • “We Act Toward Others As If Doing For Christ” (Mat. 25:40).

The thing is, we are going to have a general character and emphasis as a congregation. Whatever we prioritize and do, that’s what it is. It’s not what we say, sing, or “sloganize.” To see it in print is sobering. May we collectively strive to earn a reputation that reveres our Master, reflects our mission, and renews our minds.

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Some Things I Love About Assembling On The Lord’s Day

Neal Pollard

  • Watching young parents gather their kids and lead them into the building
  • The happy, excited chatter of people who act like they’re attending their favorite reunion ever
  • The many brief, but meaningful, conversations
  • Seeing the new faces that are inevitably there and being thrilled at the prospect
  • Noticing members greeting and welcoming people who are visiting
  • Feeling the anticipation of class and worship
  • The steady faithfulness of widows and widowers who, despite the loss of their partner, are still in love with the Lord
  • New Christians leading and enthusiastically participating in the worship service
  • Witnessing worshippers who appear to be very engaged and enjoying themselves
  • The sound of Bible pages rustling (or being close enough to see mobile devices going to the Scriptures cited)
  • Elders making spiritual encouragement and admonition
  • Little boys picking up the attendance cards
  • Young parents persevering in training their learning lads and lasses (even when that means occasioning the “training room”)
  • Even the tone-deaf lifting up their voices to make a “joyful noise” to the Lord
  • Husbands and wives united in their desire to be present before the Great I Am (and appear to be enjoying doing so together)
  • The display of emotion and heartfelt engagement by those leading us in worship
  • The very elderly or infirm, sometimes on walkers or in wheelchairs, who with great effort make the appointment they disdain missing
  • The many ways being in Christ brings interesting combinations of people together (educated with uneducated, rich with poor, the very old with the very young, those of different races, etc.)
  • Hearing the Bible conversations that start and continue after “the last amen”
  • Watching Christians rally around and embrace those who respond to the invitation
  • Knowing Christ is present and participating in the assembly (Heb. 2:12)
  • The intimate connection with God that results from His pattern and design for worship, perhaps especially in the weekly observance of the Supper
  • The piercing conviction to live better and serve Him for actively that results from assembling
  • Realizing how many things that are to love about assembling on the Lord’s Day

What would you add?

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Is It A “Sign”?

Neal Pollard

I read about the discovery of World War I shells found in the Sea of Galilee, likely dumped by fleeing Turkish ships lightening their load to escape the pursuit of the British. There is a bigger story, though, than a 100-year-old wartime artifact being found in an unlikely place. The shell was uncovered through an unprecedented drought that has left exposed an island in the middle of that sea. Some religious Jews think it presages their long-awaited Messiah, their conviction based on their view of Psalm 66:6, Zechariah 14:8, and Isaiah 15:9. Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz, a veteran of the Israel Defense Forces and freelance writer, cites various rabbis who say that the present weather anomaly and its consequences are prophesied signs. Yosef Berger, the rabbi of David’s tomb in Jerusalem, says, “Just like in prayer, which is a dialogue with God, our thoughts are taken into account in Heaven, and can bring the desired prophecy into existence… By people believing that the Galilee drying up is part of the prophecy, it will help the Messiah come” (Breaking Israel News).

I appreciate any people who believe in the truth of the Messiah, and I see any such looking and longing of a transparent sincerity. However, these well-meaning Jews are 2000 years too late. The kind of Messiah they seek is not clearly stated, but their forefathers rejected the kind of Messiah Jesus Christ was and is. The Old Testament prophesies of His birth, ancestry, forerunner, earthly ministry, opposition, crucifixion, resurrection, and church were fulfilled in the time of Jesus. The New Testament often looks back at prophesies and show how Jesus fulfilled them.

The Jews of Jesus day stopped their ears and shut their eyes to the signs and miracles He did, repeatedly proving to the open-minded observer that what such revered men as Moses, David, Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah, Malachi, and others wrote concerning the Messiah was fulfilled by the nature, birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Luke 24:44-47; John 20:30-31). Their lack of faith cost them at Jerusalem in A.D. 70. It will cost them eternally, if they do not believe in the Christ who has already come.

The drought-stricken waters of Galilee are a sign of a lack of sufficient rain, but nothing more. Those still awaiting the One who already came should instead learn of Him and follow Him. Because His second coming will be without signs (cf. Mat. 24:36ff). May we all be ready for that day!

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LESSONS I WANT MY SONS TO CARRY INTO ADULTHOOD

Neal Pollard

I preface this simply by saying that I have far too imperfectly modeled these lessons far too often, but I maintain their worthiness. The world is rooting for our children to fail and fall, but the Word is written to counteract that! Prayerfully consider the following:

–Character Is More Important Than Charm And Charisma
–Hard Work Is Its Own Reward
–Be Honorable In Every Relationship—The World Sees Too Little Of This
–Conduct Yourself As A Gentleman, No Matter What Society Preaches
–Have The Courage To Stand Up For What’s Right, Even If You Stand Alone
–Notice The “Little” People—Those Who Cannot Advance Or Help You
–Trust Divine Principles Over Cultural Practices…Every Time!
–Purity Of Heart Is Directly Connected To Cleanliness Of Life
–Do Not Leave Devotional Time Out Of Daily Living (There Is No Day You Don’t Need Him)
–Stewardship Is A Whole Life Concept
–Serve God Faithfully And Forever, Whatever Your Profession
–The Church Needs You Now—Procrastination Here Is The Devil’s Delight
–Stay Humble, Especially When You Succeed Or Do Something Well
–Volunteer For Jobs No One Likes To Do
–Who You Marry Has The Most Impact On Where You Are Going—Choose Wisely!
–“Count Your Blessings, Not Your Crosses” (A.U.)—There’s Equal Opportunity To Do Either.
–Love And Respect The Church’s And Society’s Eldest Members
–Realize There Are People Watching You When You Least Expect It—Shine!
–There Will Always Be Those Who Are Led By Your Actions—Be Wise!
–Happiness Is Self-Determined, Not Externally-Driven
–Appreciate The Gravity, Value And Importance Of Your Word
–Never Outlive Your Love For Christ
–Don’t Allow Your Negligence To Cost Other People (Whether Time, Money, Trust, Or Good Will)
–Do Not Let The World Rob You Of The Profundity Of Your Purpose
–Honor The Name You’ve Been Given By Living A Godly Life
–A Moment’s Passion And Indiscretion Can Destroy A Lifetime Of Godly Living
–“Never Do Anything In Your Mate’s Absence You Wouldn’t Do In Her Presence” (Wendell Winkler)
–Appreciate The Preciousness Of Life Every Day
–Make Spreading Cheer A Conscious Priority (And Involve Your Face).
–Choose Compassion Over Cruelty
–Keep A Song On Your Lips
–Lead As Many People To Heaven As You Can And Know That Your Life Will Open More Doors Than Your Lips.
–Integrity Trumps Image… Every Time!

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Psalm 127:3