THE MASTER’S MATERIAL

Neal Pollard

A while back it was popular in the religious world to talk about Jesus’ encounter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The emphasis has often been on the disciples’ experience. I believe the biblical emphasis is on the character of Jesus. The disciples are contemplating Him even as they encounter Him. They describe Jesus as “a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24:19). Notice three reasons why He was so mighty in word before all the people.

JESUS KNEW HIS MATERIAL. Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Truly His knowledge is perfect and ours is not, but there is no excuse for failing to study–both on our own and for a class we are teaching or sermon we are preaching.

JESUS KNEW HOW TO RELATE ITS MEANING EFFECTIVELY. The men journeying to Emma’s, after walking with Jesus, said, “Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked to us on the road, while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32). The dismal method of too many Bible classes is to essentially read and paraphrase in verse by verse fashion. Preaching can too often be disorganized in delivery or vague in message. Paul told Timothy, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NIV).  Robertson says of “rightly handling” that it means “cutting straight…Since Paul was a tent-maker and knew how to cut straight the rough camel-hair cloth, why not let that be the metaphor?” (Vol. 4, 619). As presenters of truth, tell what it meant then and in context, and then apply it!

JESUS KNEW HOW TO MAKE THE MATERIAL LIVE IN HIS STUDENTS. Luke 24:45 says, “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” That is just what we are after as teachers, preachers, and proclaimers of the Word. We are not just fact-reporting. We are trying to get into the heart. Remember that Jesus sought to change lives with His teaching.

Only Jesus was the perfect teacher. But we can always be better and great. Let us mimic the Master’s approach to His material!

“Moral Leadership?”

Neal Pollard
This is how Seth Fiegerman at Mashable summarized new Apple CEO Tim Cook’s recent moves, an array of social activist “statements” that includes an Apple gay pride parade and declaring himself homosexual, calling to attention to perceived environment and climate change, and associated causes. Fiegerman also synonymously dubbed his activism as “moral authority” and “staking out moral ground.”   The evocative title of the article is “Apple’s new moral era begins” (6/8/15). As a happy “Macster” with an iPad and iPhone, I am not a frustrated PC user looking for an opportunity to rage against the Apple machine.  It is what it is.
Whether or not you agree with Cook, he is most certainly assuming definite moral leadership.  Indeed, it is not overstating things to say he is “moralizing,” as vehemently as any preacher, professor, or reformer could.  In his powerful position at one of the most influential companies in the world, Cook is spending his leadership capital in a profound, definite, and specific way.  However, it is not as if he invented moral leadership.  Anyone with any influence in any point in history is wielding moral leadership, staking out moral ground with at least some degree of moral authority.  The defining question is, “Whose morality?”
The Bible defines morality.  As the product of a transcendent, all-powerful authority, the Bible is the only legitimate standard of morality.  It outlines a specific way of living, using words like godliness (see especially 1 Tim. and 2 Pet.), moral excellence (2 Pet. 1:5), detailing a moral lifestyle (cf. Gal. 5:22-23), and the like. It also forbids a specific way of living, using terminology like immoral and immorality.  Its standard is specific.  Consider a few examples:
  • If a man marries a woman and her mother, it is immorality (Lev. 20:14).
  • Divorcing your wife and marrying another woman is adultery, unless your wife is guilty of sexual immorality (Mat. 19:9).
  • A man who had his father’s wife was guilty of immorality (1 Cor. 5:1).
  • Sodom and Gomorrah were guilty of gross immorality and going after strange flesh (Jude 7).
  • Along with a covetous, idolatrous, drunk, or swindling person, God says to avoid the immoral (1 Cor. 5:11).
  • Immoral men are placed alongside homosexuals, kidnappers, liars and perjurers as contrary to sound teaching (1 Tim. 1:10).
  • Esau selling his birthright is called immoral (Heb. 12:16).
There are many other examples of Scripture defining morality, often by pointing out its opposite.  People who use their influence to lead people to do the immoral are certainly exerting moral leadership, but it is leadership contrary to the heart and will of God.  There is a vital need for you and me, as those who love and trust God’s Word, to exert true, moral leadership, to exalt His morality.  A saying attributed variously to Edmund Burke, John Stuart Mill, and Charles Aked, is very familiar to most: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”  May we step forward and exert moral leadership that honors God.

Ready For A Trivia Quiz?

Neal Pollard

Here are the rules: Don’t use any resources to look up these answers.  This is a quiz to test your knowledge.

  1. What is Mark Zuckerberg best known for co-founding?
  2. How many regular season games are there in an NFL, MLB, and NBA season?
  3. What is the name of Apple’s media library, media player, and mobile device management application?
  4. What is Ree Drummond’s famous nickname?
  5. Captain America, The Hulk, and Iron Man are all part of a group of superheroes better known by what name?
  6. Which online social networking service restricts users to 140 characters or less?
  7. What is the name of the author of 50 Shades Of Grey?
  8. Name three different, major cell phone service providers.
  9. What is the name of the ABC television series that pairs professional dancers with celebrities who compete against each other?
  10. What is the name of the video-sharing website whose logo is a redbox with a play button symbol in the middle of it?
  11. What is the brand name of Wal-Mart’s generic line of food products called?
  12. What is the name of the website where users can upload, save, sort, and manage images (“pins”) and other media content in collections called “pinboards”?
  13. What upbeat 2013 song by Pharrell Williams lost its Oscar bid to the song “Let It Go”?
  14. What movie did the song “Let It Go” famously appear in?
  15. Name two major cable news networks.

Hopefully that was fun.  How did you do?

If you got 12-15 right, you are fluent in current culture.
If you got 8-11 right, you are passable in current culture.
If you got 4-7 right, you are possibly living on an Amish farm or serving a stint in solitary confinement.
If you got less than 4 right, you may not have a pulse.

(Note: measurements are strictly facetious and unscientific).

Now for a second quiz:

  1. In what Bible book is it said, “We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out”?
  2. What was King David’s father’s name?
  3. Name two sons of Jochebed.
  4. Joel, Haggai, and Hosea are all books of the Bible from what literary genre?
  5. What was the name of the hometown of the apostle Paul? What was the name of his famous teacher?
  6. What two men were considered to replace the apostle Judas and which one did God select?
  7. What was the name of the town where Jesus was born?
  8. On what island was the apostle John exiled?
  9. Name two righteous kings of Judah.
  10. What were the names of the rivers Naaman preferred over the muddy Jordan River?
  11. Name the books of the Bible commonly referred to as “the gospels.”
  12. What is another name for the deliverers of Israel whose ranks included Othniel, Tola, and Ibzan?
  13. Who penned the words, “Pride goes before destruction”?
  14. What Jewish sect who opposed Jesus also did not believe in the resurrection?
  15. Who penned the book of Acts?

How did you do on that test?  We absorb so much of the culture because it surrounds us and demands our attention. We see it, hear it, and are in so many ways surrounded by it. The Bible is something we must be intentional about. We must go to it and spend time in it.  When we do, we’ll grow in more than mere knowledge (cf. 2 Pet. 3:18).  We’ll be nourished (1 Tim. 4:6), delighted (Ps. 1:2), enlivened (Ph. 2:16), protected (Ps. 119:11), revived (Ps. 119:25), and sanctified (Jn. 17:17).  We’re not trying to win a trivia contest.  We’re trying to overcome the world and go to heaven.  Bible reading, studying, and meditation is key to that!  Spend some time in The Word today and every day!

Answers To The First Quiz:

  1. Facebook
  2. 16, 162, and 82
  3. iTunes
  4. “The Pioneer Woman”
  5. “The Avengers”
  6. Twitter
  7. E.L. James
  8. Sprint, AT&T, TMobile, Verizon, etc.
  9. “Dancing With The Stars”
  10. YouTube
  11. Great Value
  12. Pinterest
  13. “Happy” or “Happiness Is The Truth”
  14. Frozen
  15. CNN, Fox News, MSNBC

Answers To The Second Quiz:

  1. 1 Timothy (6:7)
  2. Jesse
  3. Moses and Aaron
  4. Prophecy (particularly, “Minor Prophets”)
  5. Tarsus; Gamaliel
  6. Matthias and Barsabbas; Matthias
  7. Bethlehem
  8. Patmos
  9. Hezekiah, Josiah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, etc.
  10. Abanah and Pharpar
  11. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John
  12. Judges
  13. Solomon
  14. Sadducees
  15. Luke

question marks

CRAIGSLIST CASUALTIES

Neal Pollard

Ad consultant Peter Zollman issued a report in June 2014 saying that more than 40 slayings and 30 convicted killers have been linked to Craigslist (Stephanie Slifer, CBS News online, 1/28/15).  Robbery is most often the motive behind the crime. Parry Aftab, a lawyer who specializes in Internet privacy and security law, offers these precautions:

  • Never go alone
  • Meet at a central location
  • Make sure someone else knows where you’re going and communicate frequently with them throughout the transaction
  • Research the seller’s name and address on the web
  • Don’t get cornered
  • When you arrive, snap a picture of the person and/or their license plate
  • Use common sense and if you’re uncomfortable, leave (ibid.).

If you’re like me, you’ve used Craigslist many times and have lived to tell the tale.  We’ve not always followed all these rules, though a great many of them seem like common sense.  We’ve bought and sold and have had great experiences with decent, friendly folks.  The worst I can recall is that someone in our immediate family bought a vehicle from one less than forthcoming about all its flaws.

While these are very helpful public service tips, there is a danger far greater and much more common.  What is at stake is even more serious than the taking of physical life as it involves the soul.  The Bible warns about teachers who project themselves to be speakers of truth but are far from it.

  • By smooth speech and flattering words, they deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:18).
  • They turn the grace of God into lewdness and deny Christ (Jude 4).
  • They bring in destructive heresies which many follow (2 Pet. 2:1-2).
  • They exploit people with deceptive words (2 Pet. 2:3).
  • They prey on those inclined to turn their ears from truth toward fables (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
  • They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for anything good (Ti. 1:16).
  • They pervert the gospel of Christ (Gal. 1:7).
  • They captivate the impulsive (2 Tim. 3:6).

So often, these teachers find those already looking for a cheap and easy message.  However, often they draw in sincere folks who allow themselves to be misled.  In either case, while God holds teachers responsible (Jas. 3:1), He also holds hearers responsible (Lk. 8:18; Acts 17:11; 2 Tim. 2:15).  We must make ourselves accountable for what we and our families hear—eternity is on the line!

A VISIT TO A TEEN’S RELIGIOUS WORLD

Neal Pollard

I love the World War II generation and the enormous impact they have had on our nation!  Perhaps no generation has had a greater challenge since them than the one presently coming to maturity.  Last night, at Teens In The Word, we asked the teens to describe the religious philosophy of their peers as they interact with them at school, their jobs, and their extracurricular activities.  It was heartening to see and hear our teens’ conviction, knowledge, and heart, but disheartening to discuss the fruit of a couple of generations of our culture’s social experiment to reprogram the thinking of people, especially this burgeoning generation.

Our teens attend schools in Douglas, Jefferson, and Denver Counties, go to large High Schools, charter schools, private schools, and homeschools. Despite these diversities, what they encounter is remarkably similar.  It might surprise you that many of their peers believe in a Higher Power and would consider themselves spiritual. More than anywhere else, these peers attend community churches.  Whatever the church growth gurus and experts claim, the teens that go to these churches tell our teens something very different.  Their religious experience is heavily dependent upon entertainment, doing fun things with a party atmosphere, not motivated or influenced by much biblical teaching, segregated from adults, hard-rocking music, dancing, and overall a very tactile experience.  What impact does it have on “faith”?  If speaking in terms of growing closer to God and learning more about Him, not that much. The prevailing worldview of many of our teens’ friends is “what’s right for me may not be right for you,” that God and the devil, heaven and hell are mindsets more than realities (really just your conscience inside of you), and that essentially the only or worst sins, the “objective wrongs,” are offending others and judging others.  When our teens seek to assert objective truth from scripture, they sometimes encounter scorn or rejection. While our teens know a varying degree of peers whose faith and beliefs are more concrete and committed, perhaps the most frequently observed comment last night was that many of their peers “believe in God but not the Bible or Christ.”  They see the Bible as a book of myths or fairytales and not the revealer of truth or a standard of authority.

As we closed our class last night, I was left awestruck.  Our teens are among my most cherished heroes.  They are on the frontline of faith, battling in a world more opposed to truth than that of any generation now living which preceded them.  We were struck with more than admiration, though.  We felt determination, the need to redouble our efforts to establish and defend the trustworthiness and integrity of the Bible, the existence of God, and from that the authoritative nature of Scripture.  Not only will this bolster the faith of our teens, but it will help them in dialoging with those among their peers possessing good and honest hearts (cf. Lk. 8:15).

Here are four things you can do right now for our teens.  (1) Pray for them. (2) Live Christ without hypocrisy before them. (3) Actively encourage them. (4) Help equip them.  Look for heroes where you will.  I have found mine!

Our teens recently feeding the homeless (photo credit: Lexi Hoagland)

“CONTRADICT: THEY CAN’T ALL BE TRUE”

Neal Pollard

Kathy just called me and told me she saw this bumper sticker on a truck as she fought traffic on Wadsworth Boulevard.  How clever!  It uses the same religions that the infamous “Coexist” bumper sticker uses, including Hinduism, Daoism, Shintoism, Unitarian Universalism, Satanism, Atheism, Islamism, and Judaism. There is a website where these bumperstickers can be purchased (http://www.contradictmovement.org; warning: I do not endorse everything on this web site, whether message or method).

The “Coexist” campaign is meant to promote pluralism,  a theory or system that recognizes more than one ultimate principle. The very idea is contradictory.  The Koran says, “And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers” (3.85).  Shintoism says that humans become gods (kamis) after death, and they do not believe in absolute right and wrong with the soul losing individual identity and becoming part of one great guardian spirit (Japan-Guide.com; litesofheaven.com).  Atheism believes, since there is no God, that there is no judgment and no accountability to a higher power. Taking any number of tenets about conduct, salvation, our nature, deity, afterlife, and the like, one sees inescapable and frequent contradiction between these faiths and philosophies.  Yet, even without all of this, there is the exclusive truth claim of Christianity in Scripture.  The “Contradict” bumper sticker has a passage that says much.  “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).  Jesus speaks of an exclusive way, calling it “the” way and saying there is “no other” way.

The “Coexist” mentality is founded, for some, upon a noble enough desire, the desire for peace and harmony.  Yet, it seeks the wrong way to peace and harmony, letting mankind devise their own way for this to exist. We do not have that prerogative.  The Bible reveals God, the Creator, in a specific way, revealing His nature, His will, and His expectations.  With that, there is human accountability and an expectation that people will follow that way or suffer the consequences of disobedience.  Conflicting, opposing positions contradict one another, and they cannot all be true!

The “Moral Compass” Of The Modern Culture

Neal Pollard

If a nation or people will move back toward the Bible, it must overcome three philosophical barriers.  I mentioned these in an earlier blog (https://preacherpollard.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/why-ridgedale-church-of-christ-is-getting-slammed/).  Here are the three barriers:

  • The Cultural Sickness Of Subjectivity.  Subjectivism, in its final form, makes the individual “god” and their views supreme. Thoughts and feelings trump a rational look at an individual matter, and even searching for an objective viewpoint is disdained.
  • Society’s Warped View Of Tolerance.  Rather than “hate the sin, love the sinner,” the mantra is “there is no sin and no sinner.”  Though everyone has a line in the sand somewhere, no one wants anyone putting their behaviors on the other side of the line.
  • The Average Person’s Ignorance Of The Bible.  Of course, we are getting past the point where the average person believes the Bible or has a favorable view of it.  The fruit of the seeds of biblical illiteracy is more than immorality.  It includes prejudice against the Bible and contempt for those who seek to upheld it in most any forum.

Certainly, those professing to follow the Bible and its guidelines have hurt their own cause through ungodly attitudes, hypocrisy, isolation, and prejudices of their own.  Christians must be willing to make the first (and even second and third) steps (cf. Mat. 5:41).  We must model biblical teaching with righteous lives (Mat. 5:14-16; 1 Pet. 2:9).  We cannot expect the world to act Christlike, but we must expect that Christians will not be worldly.  We can effect the change we want to see, and, in time, align the culture’s moral compass with the Creator’s.