Jahaziel’s Comforting Message

Neal Pollard

Jahaziel would have been a man of interesting and diverse talents. As a Levite, he would have served with the priests in the temple. As one of the sons of Asaph, he would have either been a literal descendant “or more probably [one of] a class of poets and singers who recognized him as [his] master” (Easton, M. G. Easton’s Bible dictionary 1893 : n. pag. Print.). But on the occasion recorded in 2 Chronicles 20, Jahaziel would have been a “seer” or prophet. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him during the reign of Jehoshaphat, a righteous king of Judah (2 Chron. 20:14). Judah has been invaded by the Moabites and the Ammonites (20:1). Jehoshaphat’s response is righteous, seeking the Lord, proclaiming a fast, and leading a prayer service (20:3-13). Entire families, men, infants, women, and children were all assembled, “standing before the Lord” (13). Then, it happens. Jahaziel is the man God chooses and uses to respond to the touching prayer of the king.  What can we learn from Jahaziel’s message?

  • It was predicated upon the Lord’s power to deliver (15). He says, “The battle is not yours but God’s.” They were helpless alone and the message was that God was able to deliver them. The power belongs to the Lord. How we need that reminder today! In our personal battles with sin and trials, we so often are guilty of going it alone. Isn’t it thrilling to know that we have help in our fiercest battles (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13)?
  • It was precise in its instructions (16). Jahazael told them a specific time (“tomorrow”), a specific action (“go down against them”) and a specific place (“at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel”).  God wanted His people to know exactly what to expect and exactly what He expected them to do.  What comfort it is to know that God has laid out His instructions precisely and plainly. He’s not trying to trick us. He has told us what we need to do and what is ultimately coming when all is said and done (cf. Heb. 9:27).
  • It pointed to the salvation of the Lord (17).  The height of comfort might be this phrase: “station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf.”  From the proper position, we can see the salvation of the Lord on our behalf. The hard-hearted, indifferent, bitter, and negative person is spiritually blind to it, but we should see it! When I am stationed at the pinnacle of prayer, the citadel of Scripture, the lookout of the Lord’s Supper, the gate of gratitude, or the fortress of forgiveness, I see the salvation of the Lord. Like gazing intently at a masterpiece, the longer I look the greater the nuances, details, and expertise emerge from the canvas of His work in my life. We can turn nowhere besides Calvary to see the clearest demonstration of the Lord’s salvation on our behalf!
  • It promised divine assistance (17). Jahaziel’s conclusion is profound. He ends, “the LORD is with you.” Sure enough, “The Lord set ambushes” (22), “the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies” (27), and “the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel” (29). The result was peace and rest (30). Are you confident of that? Whatever you are going through now and whatever lies ahead, do you believe that He is with you (cf. Mat. 28:20; Heb. 13:5-6)? He has never failed and by His perfect character He never will!
  • It provoked praise and thanksgiving (18-19). From the top down, reverent worship and loud praise followed the mighty message of Jahaziel. This was faith in action! They believed the Word and proceeded as if it had already happened. Shouldn’t we be so confident in God’s promises that we respond in the same way? What struggle will you face that’s bigger than the promise of God?

Just like that, Jahaziel fades back into the woodwork of obscurity! His minute of sacred fame came and went, but how masterfully the Master used Him. However anonymous or average you may believe yourself to be, God has a greater message for you to share than He did for Jahaziel! As you faithfully share it, you can help produce an even greater outcome in the life of somebody you know. Perhaps He will use you to save someone from spiritual rather than physical death!  Be on the lookout for that opportunity today and share God’s comforting message.

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The wilderness of Jeruel

CHECK THOSE LOTTERY NUMBERS CLOSELY!

Neal Pollard

Today, we are finding out that three winning lottery tickets were sold in the record-setting Powerball jackpot, one in California, one in Florida, and one in Tennessee. Each ticket is worth $528.8 million dollars. That’s an attention-getting number.  Here are a few more.  $70.1 billion dollars, the amount Americans spend on lottery tickets every year (more than Americans spend on sports tickets, books, video games, movies, and music combined). $755. That’s the average per-capita spend on lottery tickets in South Dakota. $800. That’s the per-capita spend in Rhode Island, who holds the ignominious distinction of leading the nation in this category. $230. That’s the per-capita average spend of every man, woman, and child in the 43 states where the lottery is played. One-third and one-half.  The poorest third of households buy half of all lottery tickets (statistics via theatlantic.com, Derek Thompson, “Lotteries: America’s $70 Billion Shame”).

Newscasters often report on these jackpots and encourage viewers to “check the numbers.” Lottery commercials often vie with beer commercials as some of the more humorous, clever ones to be seen. In the media and public venues, lottery ticket purchasing is usually portrayed as a harmless, even exciting, diversion. Perhaps many have failed to look more closely at what these other numbers mean for a person’s ethics and morality.

John A. Hobson, in the January 1905 edition of International Journal of Ethics, examined “The Ethics Of Gambling.” In an examination of gambling, including lottery contests, Hobson observes:

Gambling involves the denial of all system in the appointment
of property: it plunges the mind in a world of anarchy where
things come upon one, and pass from one miraculously. It does
not so manifestly sin against the canons of justice as do other
bad modes of transfer, theft, fraud, sweating (sic.), for every one
is said to have an equal chance; but it inflicts a graver damage
on the intellect. Based as it is on an organised rejection of all
reason as a factor, it removes its devotees into a positive atmosphere
of miracles, and generates an emotional excitement that inhibits
those checks which reason more or less contrives to place upon
emotional extravagances. The essence of gambling consists in
an abandonment of reason, an inhibition of the factors of human
control (Vol. 15, No. 2, 138).

Hobson was looking at the underlying psyche of those so eager to gain as much as possible while exerting as little effort as possible. But he decries more than laziness. He puts his finger on the most dangerous aspect of things like playing the lottery—the Bible calls it “covetousness.” It is an irrational, often compulsive, attempt to obtain wealth.

The BDAG lexicon defines the covetous person as “one who desires to have more than is due, a greedy person, whose ways are judged to be extremely sinful by Christians and many others. In Hellenic society this was a violation of the basic principle of proportion and contrary to the idea of beneficent concern for the citizenry” (Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : n. pag. Print.). Greed is not confined to practices like playing the lottery, but it is legitimate for one to ask what motivates their play?

What is clear is what Scripture says about covetousness: it prevents one’s inheriting the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10), it is idolatry which again prevents inheriting this kingdom (Eph. 5:5), it is a failure to love one’s neighbor (Rom. 13:9), and it is a defilement of the heart (Mark 7:22). Let’s make sure that greed and covetousness do not “have our number.”

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How Do You Spell “Cross”?

Neal Pollard

  1. “SEE”– Look at Calvary. Don’t turn away. I know it’s not easy. What is done to Him is shameful. I know. But, look closely! Past the spittle. Beyond the blood. There. In His eyes. Friend, that is love. It is love for you! See the nails in His hands and feet, fastening Him to a tree He created for man’s use. Look at the love He has for you!
  2. “ARE?”–Are you able to see that He bled and died for you? Are you willing to admit you’re lost without Him? Are you ready to submit to His will, to obey Him, and to live for Him? Are you prepared for eternity? Are you convinced?
  3. “OH”–Hear His cries of pain and agony. The death of a thousand deaths. Bitter moans of His disciples. The gasp of heaven’s angels. The sorrow of a Father for His only begotten Son! The gasps and exclamations of a hateful mob.
  4. “SS”–That’s the hiss of the beguiling serpent. The one who is bruising the heel of the perfect One, putting God the Son in the tomb. This is his moment of triumph. Though resurrection will soon spell victory for Christ and hope for man, at the cross the devil must be enjoying his front row seat at Calvary. Doesn’t he anger you? Disgust you? Motivate you? Live for Jesus, the Lion of Judah. Don’t live for the roaring, devouring lion.

Friends, the cross spells the difference between heaven and hell, hope and hopelessness, joy and sorrow, night and day!

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CHAMELEONS

Neal Pollard

Chameleons are truly one of God’s most fascinating creations.  Their tongue can be twice the length of their body! Their feet are climbing marvels. Their eyes can focus on two objects at once, and they have a 360-degree arc of vision. They can see both visible and ultraviolet light (information via Journal of Comparative Physiology, 2/98, PNAS, Vol. 107, No. 12, A Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles, et al). Despite all of this, what do we associate the chameleon with?  It changes colors to blend in with its environment.  From this alteration of appearance, we have come to use the word in a figurative sense. To be a chameleon has come to mean one who becomes like those around them in order to blend in with them.  Often, the term is not used in a complimentary way.

Paul tells us that he was able to relate to people of different circumstances, adapting himself to peoples of different backgrounds in 1 Corinthians 9:19-22. Context and other passages would not lend support to the idea of compromising biblical truth in order to fit in with anyone. He would not sacrifice doctrine for fellowship with those in error nor would he sacrifice moral truth to accommodate those of a worldly mindset. Motivated by a burning desire to convert the lost to Christ, Paul went among the Jews, those under the Law, those without the law, and the weak and used his knowledge, experience, and familiarity with people in those circumstances “for the sake of the gospel” (23). But he did all of that, being under the law of Christ, in a disciplined way (27).

We are tempted to alter our speech, compromise our convictions, hedge our beliefs, and place ourselves in ungodly situations in order to fit in with people whose acceptance we seek. We may feel we have to put our lights under a basket (cf. Mat. 5:15) to appease a client, coworkers, non-Christian family, or others whose association or friendship we’ve made. It can feel more comfortable to blend in, to conform to them (cf. Rom. 12:1).

Peter writes to Christians faced with persecution, encouraging them to suffer in this world in order to gain unsurpassed joy and blessings in eternity. They were tempted to enjoy comfort and acceptance here only to forfeit God’s acceptance at the Judgment. It is so hard to see past what we’re facing right now, but we must ready to suffer with Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-19). Our challenge is to relate to as many people as possible, understanding and loving them without participating with them in what’s not right or making them think that they are right in living contrary to the way of Christ. Politicians may “go along to get along,” but Christians have a higher calling. Make sure your Christian light shows up in the crowd!

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6 Things About Gossip That I Don’t Like

Neal Pollard

The wonderful congregation I work with and the school overseen by its elders have been the subject of rumors and hearsay through the years, some of them preposterous and even as opposite from the truth as could be. Like everyone else, I’ve been the subject of gossip on many occasions. As masterfully and humorously portrayed in the 15th episode of the first season of the Andy Griffith Show (“Those Gossipin’ Men”), gossip can seemingly appear, full-blown, out of thin air. It can be personally hurtful, but it’s part of the territory of living and breathing.  Here are 6 things I particularly dislike about the ugly specter of gossip.

  • It’s GallingIt “reveals secrets” (Prov. 11:13). It separates friends (Prov. 16:28), yeah even “intimate friends” (Prov. 17:9). While cowardly, it still takes a lot of nerve!
  • It’s Obstructive. Billing itself as “helpful” and “instructive,” it usually serves the opposite purpose. It “reveals secrets” (Prov. 20:19) and is the hallmark of idle busybodies (1 Tim. 5:13).
  • It’s Spurious. As previously mentioned, gossip is as apt to be false and inaccurate as it is to be trustworthy.  Even if there is a grain of truth, it can have an admixture of inaccuracy blended in.  Tragically, it is often received as the truth and nothing but the truth.
  • It’s Sinful. Find it listed alongside “strife,” “jealousy,” “slanders,” and “arrogance” (2 Cor. 12:20). God calls the spreader of such “a fool” (Prov. 10:18). It’s an “evil weapon” (cf. Isa. 32:7) and “stubborn rebellion” (Jer. 6:28). See also Romans 1:29, 2 Timothy 3:3, and Titus 2:3.
  • It’s Inconsiderate. Few gossips would want to be treated the way they treat their subjects (Luke 6:31).  Repeatedly, Christians are urged to “be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32). We’re to love each other without hypocrisy and “be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:9-10).  Gossiping is rarely wrapped in forethought and careful circumspection.  It’s not “friendly fire.” It’s just fire.
  • It’s Presumptuous. Gossip is acting with entitlement, believing that it is fair and right to spread (whether true or false) information about the subject thereof. The gossip believes himself or herself qualified to share something about someone else, and such are usually mortified if the tale is traced back to them.

Yet, indignation should be tempered with realization.  Few have so mastered the tongue that they are above the fray we mention here.  Let’s be convicted to practice saying good and kind things behind each other’s backs. Remember to investigate before you propagate, and even then only carefully and prayerfully. Usually, prayer and care will render the “juicy tidbit” dead on the floor of your mind, safely unspoken and incapable of doing any harm. Remember the famous words of 19th Century Michigan poet Will Carleton: “Boys flying kites haul in their white winged birds; You can’t do that way when you’re flying words. Careful with fire, is good advice we know Careful with words, is ten times doubly so. Thoughts unexpressed may sometimes fall back dead; But God Himself can’t kill them when they’re said.”

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Are You Willing To Be A Maintenance Worker?

Neal Pollard

Near the end of the epistle to Titus, Paul writes, “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (3:14). This verse teaches that Christianity involves maintenance work. Everyone enjoys a finished product, few like putting it together, and fewer enjoy repairing or maintaining it. In the same way, “maintaining good works” in the local church can be tedious business. Everyone enjoys a comfortable building, but who will help work on it? Everyone is concerned about the sick and hospitalized, but who will take the time to call, write, and visit them? Everyone likes hospitality and good fellowship, but who is willing to provide it?  The church must be filled with maintenance workers.

On the personal level, it is sad but true that some individual Christians just “fall away.”  Jesus once taught, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). In this verse, Jesus laments the failure of some believes to do that necessary, personal “maintenance work.” Preventatively, He teaches that we must maintain our joy of God’s Word. Nothing does this like reading and studying the Bible. Only those who are involved daily in this come to truly appreciate the precious value of its truth. Christ teaches that we must maintain our faith in God’s Word. It is hard to believe, but Jesus says that individuals can cease to believe in Him. This is dangerous, as Peter teaches one is better off knowing Christ than rejecting Him (2 Pet. 2:20-21). Christ also teaches that we must maintain our strength by God’s Word. Otherwise, temptation will pull us away from Him.

When Thomas O. Davis accepted the presidency of a civic club, he was not facetious when he prayed, “Now I get me up to work, I pray the Lord I may not shirk, and if I die before tonight, I pray my work will be all right.” An old proverb goes, “God gives every bird its food, but he does not throw it into the nest.” Too, God has given every man a Savior, but He will not just put salvation in our lap without our doing anything. In both the case of the bird and the man, there is work to be done to obtain and maintain what is needed. May all of use do good works eagerly (“be ready,” Titus 3:1), thoroughly (“to every good work,” Titus 3:1), blamelessly (“speak evil of no man,” Titus 3:2), and gently (Titus 3:2). That’s the way to excel in the maintenance business!

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HOLDING THE CIGARETTE OUT THE WINDOW

Neal Pollard

I saw an older man, trying to negotiate a turn, with the window partially down and balancing a cigarette out of that window. It was 25 degrees, so my guess would be that he was not overheated by his tiny, burning cylindrical distraction. It’s not an uncommon occurrence, though I’ve normally observed teens doing this. A friend of mine in High School said he dangled his cigarettes out the window to keep his mom from smelling it in the car.  There may be more than one reason why people do this, but concealing the fact of one’s smoking (or at least its pungent smell) seemingly factors in.

Trying to conceal actions we know are wrong or think others will disapprove of is as old as the Garden of Eden. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command, “the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8b). From that point forward, mankind has shown a remarkably similar tendency—regardless of century, geographical location, gender, age, or other demographical details—to try and cover up his sins. David, one whose heart was ordinarily pleasing to God, conceived such deception and dishonesty in an effort to hide his egregious sin with Bathsheba (cf. 2 Sam. 11:6-27). Solomon issues multiple warnings to those who, rather than repenting, attempt to conceal their iniquity (Prov. 10:6,11,18; 28:13).

It extends beyond just trying to conceal the smell of smoke, doesn’t it? Guilt, fear, worry, and shame usually leads the pornography addict, participant in an illicit relationship or affair, the problem drinker or drug user, as well as the general hypocrite, to use up a lot of energy and attention to covering up their wrongdoings. The hope is that they can keep discovery out of the reach and detection of the ones whose acceptance and approval they greatly desire to have. So often, these concealers have forgotten someone very important. Such is a serious miscalculation since that someone cannot fail to notice. The eyes of the Lord watch all the ways of man and his paths (Prov. 5:21) and “are in every place, watching the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men” (Psa. 33:13).

We may conceal deep, dark secrets from even those closest to us for a lifetime.  Yet, ultimately, no one will get away with a lifestyle of sin.  God won’t be duped. We won’t pull the wool over His all-seeing eyes. Instead, our energy should be directed toward overcoming sin and looking to Him to give us the strength we need to do so.  All of us struggle with temptation and sin, but how we address it is an indicator of our character. May we be transparent with our God and honest with one another!

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Carrie Fisher Wisdom: Do AND Deny

Neal Pollard

Social media is abuzz about both the caustic criticism of fans commenting on how poorly they think Carrie Fisher has aged and her withering response to their mean, thoughtless remarks. Barely in her twenties when she appeared as Princess Leia in the original Star Wars in 1977, she reprised her role 38 years later almost in her sixties. You will inevitably add some wrinkles and lose some tone in four decades. Fisher gave an interesting interview to Good Housekeeping that appeared just before the debut of the historic blockbuster earlier this month. Apparently, she felt she had to lose a significant amount of weight for the movie. How did she lose the 35 pounds? She says, “I did it the same way everybody has to—don’t eat and exercise more! There is no other way to do it. I have a harder time eating properly than I do exercising. It’s easier for me to add an activity than to deny myself something” (Good Housekeeping UK, staff, 12/7/15).

Most of us can relate to her insight. Being active and doing something takes some resolve and endurance, but withholding or removing what does not belong often challenges our appetites, desires, and cravings much more. This battle rages on an infinitely more serious front than weight-loss, though. Jesus makes self-denial a salient ingredient of discipleship (Luke 9:23).  BDAG indicates this word for deny means, “To refuse to pay attention to, disregard, renounce (oneself in this passage)” (Arndt, William, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature 2000 : n. pag. Print.).  Restraining myself from saying a sarcastic, bitter, angry word is harder than lifting my voice in song or prayer. Fighting the urge to give in to a temptation requires more effort than doing something kind or necessary for someone in need. Our relationships are not just damaged through neglect or omission, but also by failing to conquer unhealthy and unwholesome attitudes, words, and actions.

Doing and denying are dual elements essential to overcoming this world. God wants obedience, but He also wants self-control. It was a staple expectation of Paul’s gospel preaching (Acts 24:25). It is listed among the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). It is among the Christian graces (2 Pet. 1:6). But as we regularly master it, we will shine Christ to those around us in a memorable way! As we do God’s will, let’s also deny ourselves.

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How Well Do We Listen?

Neal Pollard

A Dilbert comic strip by Scott Adams is a side-splitter! Dilute is sitting in one of what seems like an endless series of meetings, and the fellow next to him is droning on and on about something. Dilbert thinks to himself that he will substitute an optimistic remark for listening and winds up making an inappropriate and awkward remark. The droner is aghast!

Listening is not a forte for most of us. In casual conversation with either acquaintances or intimate friends we often are much more intent to have our say than to hear out the other person. McKay and Davis, in Messages, mentions no fewer than 12 “listening blocks” (comparing, mind-reading, judging, dreaming, sparring, placating, etc.) (8-12). On just about anyone’s list of main contributors to marital difficulty is communication breakdown. A spouse may even hear what the other is saying but still miss the deeper messages being sent. Our children will find an audience to share their fears, questions, confusions, frustrations, and hopes. Parents who do not give their children an open forum, no matter how inconvenient it may be for them at times, lose their spot at that precious roundtable. In the church, we often lose our members–especially when they are in emotional, financial, or spiritual crisis–because we are not listening to what they say is going on with them.

We know how frustrated we feel when we think we have not been heard. Preachers and Bible class teachers usually have moments along the way when they think, “If I stopped talking right now, would anybody know or care?” Soul-winners may feel that their students sometimes respond to their teaching by tuning out the message. Elders and members often feel that way toward each other, that they are not being heard.

Let me encourage you to, borrowing the words of Jesus, “take heed how you hear” (Luke 8:18). A friend and former elder, John Langham, once reminded me of Proverbs 18:13, that “he who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Make a special effort, in whatever position as listener you may find yourself, to work hard to actively, faithfully tune in to the one speaking to you. It is not only polite, but it allows you to be more clearly heard. Let’s practice today!

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Grateful For This Moment

Neal Pollard

We are enjoying health, with loved ones near
Calm and peace and moments of cheer
A cupboard full, everyone safe and warm
Blessings of every type and form
Enjoying salvation, much to look forward to
We have a quiet day with not much to do
Serenity sweeps over the entire home
Blue skies are coloring a cloud-touched dome
Our children are close, all are serving the Lord
They make us laugh and beam by deed and word
I have a godly spouse I love and she loves me
We live in a land of freedom and prosperity
Tomorrow’s uncertain and undeserving of worry
But for today I’m in absolutely no hurry
I will bask in this moment, aware of Who bestowed
And thank Him profusely for to Him all is owed.

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