“Let Them Alone”

Neal Pollard

It is a commendable mixture of righteous indignation, conviction, and affection for the Lord and His church to want to answer all the critics, rebut all the troublemakers, defend all the reputations, and fight all the false teaching out there.  Knowing how best to deal with the pot-stirrers or the novel-doctrine-peddlers can cause quite the consternation.  Do we answer every allegation and oppose every little quibble?  Are there times where the best answer is to simply ignore “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19) or those who attempt to “preach any other gospel” (Gal. 1:9)?  That requires great wisdom and judgment as to the specific situations which arise, but it is clear that the Bible has given disciples the counsel to just let some things lie.

A NEGATIVE EXAMPLE: The Pharisees Of Matthew 15.  These religious leaders elevated human traditions (1-2,6,9), made their own rules they bound others to follow or else (3-6), had heart problems (7-9), and spoke defiling words (11).  They intimidated the disciples, who were concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees (12). Jesus pointed ahead to the judgment that would determine the nature of their work (13), but counseled His followers to “let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (14).  So often, those who strive and divide, as well as those swayed by them, experience the fruit of their work in this life.  Others, unheeding of cautions and pleadings to the contrary, find out in the end (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24-25).  While the Pharisees ultimately nailed Jesus to the cross, His view of their divisive tactics was to simply “let them alone.”

A POSITIVE EXAMPLE: Peter And John In Acts 5.  Gamaliel, a respected teacher of the Law and member of the Sanhedrin Council, weighed in on the work of Peter and John, two faithful gospel preachers. He looked at past movements of those claiming to be someone, Theudas and Judas, and compared them to these followers of Christ. His advice, “stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38b-40).  While we have no indication that Gamaliel’s advice is inspired, as Caiaphas did (John 11:49ff), it is hard to find fault with his logic.  In the case of the apostles in Acts five, their plan and action was of God. In the case of the other two “leaders,” it was of men.  Time typically tells.  Inspect the fruit.  Listen to the words.  Watch the attitudes.  Discern the actions demanded and urged. Examine it all in the light of carefully studied Scripture.

Apathy and indifference can lull us to sleep.  The antagonistic or the agents of unscriptural change can both serve to wake us up, get us to reexamine our stand, get into our Bibles, and work to ensure our message and our methods are “by the book.”  But do we have to accept every challenge and dare?  Jesus once drew in the dirt in the face of those who demanded an answer from Him.  There are some times when the best answer is silence.  As for those who make demands of us? Sometimes, we’re best to just “let them alone.”

A BLIND SPOT TO MY BALD SPOT

Neal Pollard

Positively traumatic.  I don’t know another way to describe it.  Sure, I knew about the gentle receding of hair on my forehead—or “sixhead,” as my good friend Dean Murphy recently called it. However, nothing prepared me for “the picture.”  Sure, I’ve had people, even recently, noting the thinning of my hair on top.  I found the noting of that irritating and even, at times, amusing. But, the stark, unflinching, and brutally honest photo was utterly convicting.  There, in living color, was my immutably glabrous cranium.  OK. My bald spot.  I have no idea how long I’ve walked around sporting this condensed coif, but I can see it now… every time I look at that picture.

That blind spot was more vain than dangerous.  There are situations in life where a blind spot can be more serious.  Driving down the highway, we may miss another vehicle that is in our blind spot—not visible in our rearview mirrors but still most definitely there.  But the far more common blind spots of our lives have to do with what we cannot, do not, or choose not to see.

It is easy for us to see the faults of others, their sins of attitude, speech, and action.  We marvel that they seem oblivious to them.  After all, we see it all so clearly.  Yet, in our own lives, we may not be seeing clearly.  We do not realize how unfriendly we appear to others, how self-promoting, how braggadocios, how sarcastic, how unhelpful, how harsh, or how suggestive our words and deeds appear to others.  Solomon notes that “all the ways of a man are clean in his own sight” (Prov. 16:2a). Relying on others to tell us is really not fair to them.  After all, they must navigate around and through their own blind spots on the commutes of their daily lives.

Paul helps us identify these social and spiritual blindspots. He writes, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves” (2 Cor. 13:5).  The best way to actively view our lives is through the mirror of God’s Word (cf. Jas. 1:23).  As we look closely and carefully into it, we see ourselves better.  How vital that we get a better view of how our own lives impact others, for good or ill!  This is about more than vanity.  This has more serious far-reaching implications.  May the Lord give us the courage to see our blind spots and the strength to eliminate them.

There it is on the fella in the sweater in the far left seat of the front row.
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IF YOU’RE HAPPY AND YOU KNOW IT, YOUR FACE WILL SURELY SHOW IT!

Neal Pollard

Oh the stories that song leaders and preachers could tell!  Often, when we sing such standbys as “I Love To Tell The Story,” “Rejoice In The Lord,” or “When We All Get To Heaven,” we do so with little visible enthusiasm or apparent joy.  If we sing devotional songs like “Thank You, Lord,” “Shout To The Lord,” or “I’m Happy Today,” are we conveying what we are saying?  Occasionally, in our humanity, we come into the assemblies burdened down with cares and problems.  There may be a powerful distraction nearby that makes concentrating on what we’re doing in worship more difficult.  No one knows more than me how misleading facial expressions can be as a reflection of what is in the heart.  Yet, I’ve seen some serial sourpusses and perpetual pouters who claim to be Christians.  As James was known to say, “My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”

It’s certainly not confined to when we’re engaged in worshipping in song or listening to the sermon.  It’s discovered in conversation.  Too many times, I’ve encountered Christians who are always disclosing the latest downer in their lives, the problems that pervade them, and the sadness surely saturates them!

Some of the most joyous Christians I’ve known have been more besieged by difficulties than anyone else.  They are even graceful enough to be able to talk about them—and, thus, not concealing their troubles—but with a perspective and positivity that reflects their abiding trust in the Great I Am.  Three times, Peter speaks to Christians who are distressed by various trials, enduring by faith, and sharing the sufferings of Christ and remarks on their remarkable rejoicing (1 Pet. 1:6,8; 4:13). Perhaps it was their “living hope” (1 Pet. 1:3).

Maybe our long faces are not due to any particular problems, and of all people on earth we, especially in America, are spared many of the trials and difficulties of those in poorer countries. It could be that we have disconnected ourselves from the source of joy.  Or, it could be that we have forgotten to practice gratitude and count our blessings.  Perhaps, we’ve gotten spoiled or concluded that being happy is the goal of life, and when this occurs we live with an expectation that others and circumstances should be oriented to make us feel good, content, or satisfied.

Let’s challenge each other to wear a smile, to work more at expressing our joy, and to win the battles in the heart that keep us from being characterized by winsomeness and positivity.  By this, we’ll be a billboard for Christ and a blessing to everyone else.

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WHAT I SAW WHEN A SISTER SERVED

Neal Pollard

It was such a joy to accompany the BVBII students on campaign to Greensboro, Georgia.  Chuck Ramseur, one of our graduates, is doing a great job with Brianna and their four children, and the church was so warm and hospitable.  Yet, one of the things I’ll remember the most from this trip was the continual service displayed by Bonnie Saldana. Her husband, Mario, is a freshman and we had the same host family.  Throughout the week, Bonnie would jump up and clear the dishes from the table and clean the kitchen.  Our hosts, Dean and Karen, would urge her to sit down, but you could tell how much they truly appreciated it.  She made no fanfare about it, but quietly and diligently worked.

Mario is a joy to be around, but his wife’s willingness to jump in and get involved will help raise his “stock” when he graduates and looks for a place to preach.  Increasingly, I have seen women married to preachers who, in apparent protest at the thought of being part of a “package deal,” do little if anything to be involved (clean up, teach classes, otherwise volunteer, etc.) in the local church.  This sends a powerfully clear message to the other ladies (and men) in the congregation.  Rather than greatness, it shows gross selfishness.

Jesus proclaimed service as the way heaven esteems greatness (cf. Mat. 20:26-28). I wonder how He feels when He sees those unaware and unwilling to look around and assist where work is to be done.  The particulars of the problem are not given at Philippi between the divided women, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil. 4:2), but an overarching solution to “church trouble” is to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).

What is to be eliminated? (1) Selfishness (Louw/Nida—“What they do is just for themselves,” 88.167), (2) Empty conceit (“A state of pride which is without justification,” ibid.), (3) Personal interests (A selfish preoccupation with with one’s own affairs, O’Brien, NIGTC, np).  What is encouraged? (1) Humility of mind, (2) Higher regard for others, (3) Looking out for the interests of others. Apply this to cleaning up after fellowship activities, babysitting, helping with workdays, providing transportation, practicing hospitality, listening to others’ ideas and input, doing security, greeting visitors, providing meals for those in need, visiting the hospitals and nursing homes, taking an interest in the youth through the elderly, teaching a class, nurturing a new Christian, and using your training and talents however you can to help the church grow.

There are many Christian women and men out there like Bonnie.  May each of us look at examples like these and eagerly imitate them.  In noticing them, we are following heaven’s example.  In following them, we are following heaven’s advice.

Bonnie is pictured (far left) in this picture of the BVBII campaign group in Georgia.

Are You A Taker Or A Giver?

Neal Pollard

  • Are you sure to take credit for works that are done or do you seek to give credit for them?
  • Are you more apt to take others’ time or to give your time to others?
  • Do you take joy from others or give it to them?
  • Are you quicker to take the attention or to give it?
  • Would others better know you as a taker of happiness or as a giver of it?
  • Is your reputation as one who takes others’ help or who gives yourself to help others?
  • Are you prone to take advantage of someone or give an advantage to someone?
  • As you take God’s blessings, do you give yourself as a blessing to others?
  • Would you be better known as a taker or giver of encouragement?

There are surely more contrasts along these lines, but consider this regarding them all. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).  Much of this is a matter of selfishness or unselfishness.  As unappealing as the prospect is, each of us does well to look closer at which we are.  We may grab a temporary spotlight, get a short-term advantage, or have the fleeting praise of men, even while taking, but the Lord’s view is different.  He says of takers, “They have their reward in full” (Mat. 6:2,5,16).  How much better to give (cf. Lk. 6:38)!

Cease Fire!

(Guest Baker)

Gary Neal Pollard III

On Christmas Day in World War I, British and German soldiers called a ceasefire and shared food and other comforts. They were definitely still enemies, but were able to tolerate each other long enough to celebrate a holiday.

In keeping with the prominent theme of “walking” in the book of Ephesians, Paul says, “Always be humble and gentle, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love” (4:2). This word “tolerance” literally means “to endure something unpleasant or difficult” or “to permit the presence of something.”

I don’t like all of my Christian family. I love them all, but there are personality differences and thought processes and it’s hard to get along with them all. I like most of them! Talk to any member of the family of Christ, and they will agree, no one gets along with everyone.

According to Ephesians 4:2, we are required to put up with those who bother us or don’t get along with us or do things the way we do. We aren’t told to be their best friend, but we are going to be held accountable for how we treat those in the family of God.

Let’s be determined this week to be civil and deferential to everyone in the family of God and not think about our differences with them. Let’s remember that this is all done for the purpose of unity, which is vital to the health of the church (4:3,4). It will require effort – no one said it would be easy! But if it will help the church be healthy, it’s totally worth it.

What’s My Excuse?

Neal Pollard

Mark Speckman is an interesting story. He was a High School star linebacker, played Junior College then at a four-year NAIA college at the same position, and then coached college football for 20 years (he followed Dan Hawkins at Willamette in 1998).  He can write, type, use a cell phone, drive, play racquetball, and play trombone (USA Today, 10/4/05).  What’s so unusual about that?  Speckman was born without hands!  He has never let that stand in his way, but has used the handicap to inspire and motivate others.

Each of us will enjoy advantages and suffer some disadvantages throughout life, regardless of our age, income, citizenship, looks, and background.  While some seem to have greater challenges than others, the greatest determining factor seems to be attitude, focus, and determination.  Do I use my “handicaps” as an excuse? Am I full of self-pity? Do my problems cause me to give up and check out?

We will not know on this side of time what Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, but we know it tormented him (2 Cor. 12:7), drove him to his knees three times in prayer about it (12:8), and was a weakness for him (12:10).  He writes this after detailing the many trials he faced for doing what was right, preaching the gospel (2 Cor. 11:23-33).  Yet, he never fell back on any of this as an excuse for failing to reach, teach, serve, and help others.  Apparently, as he hurt within and worked through his own limitations, he kept his focus on doing the Lord’s work through his Christian service.

The question is not whether you suffer and struggle or even if you have a thorn to contend with.  In your own way, you probably will and on an ongoing basis.  Will it be a crutch or a catapult?  Will it hold you down or launch you higher?  That depends on you.  What will you do about it?