The Difference Between Unity And Union

Neal Pollard

When I was a little boy, I heard my dad contrast these two ideas, union and unity, with an interesting illustration.  He said, “You can tie two cats’ tails together and hang them over a clothes line. You may have union, but you do not have unity.”  Recently, political pundits have been making a somewhat similar contrast concerning the European Union. They are bound together economically, socially, and geographically, but there is at times a lack of unity.  These ties have not led to effective communication and information sharing in dealing with terrorist threats. Distrust, the ambitions of individual EU countries, and autonomous business dealings with nations outside its union all contribute to an uneasy synthesis between themselves.

There is great misunderstanding in the religious world and, at times, in the Lord’s church about what biblical unity is.  While there are those who believe that unity demands agreement on matters that ultimately are not established and determined in Scripture (how/if Bible classes are divided, whether to extend an invitation after a sermon, whether or not to meet on Sunday night, order of worship services—i.e., Lord’s Supper or sermon first, etc.), there are many others who believe that unity is possible where union is really what is attempted.

Scripture is the basis of unity! Jesus defined the oneness He wanted His followers to have as reflective of the unity He shares with the Father (John 17:20-21). Through His inspired writer, Paul, He emphasizes the importance of unity, saying that we are to “be diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). Unity is clearly defined as existing within a diligence to preserve the truth of “one body…one spirit…one hope…one Lord, one faith, one baptism…one God and Father of all…” (Eph. 4:4-6). The New Testament tells us in specific terms what’s involved in each of these. Attempting to be tied and bound to those who reject or attempt to change what Scripture says about these is not biblical unity. It amounts to tying together what’s incompatible and incongruous. That’s just inconceivable!

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The Ankgor Wat Dinosaur

Neal Pollard

I have been to the Ankgor Wat temple complex, near Siem Reap, four times. It’s a fascinating tourist attraction, but there is one carving, among literally thousands, that stands out above the rest. It is found at Ta Prohm Temple. The temple was built between the late-1100s to early-1200s by King Jayavarman VII and dedicated to his mother. Today, it is “shrouded in dense jungle” and “fig, banyan, and kapok trees spread their gigantic roots over stones, probing walls and terraces” (tourismcambodia.com). “It took 79,365 people to maintain the temple including 18 great priests, 2,740 officials, 2,202 assistants, and 615 dancers” (ibid.). But it’s that stone carving that it most unforgettable.  One particular trip, which I made in 2009 with two elders, three deacons, and my oldest son, Gary, stands out in my mind.

I asked our guide, hired out by the Kazna Hotel in Siem Reap and of the Buddhist faith, what he thought this particular creature was. He said he had no idea what it was and added, “They must have had a really good imagination.”  The question such a response raises is, “How did they know to imagine that?!”

Well, a group from Canada was following close behind our group of seven from Denver, Colorado.  A son asked his father for an explanation of the carvings on the pillar, and dad replied with some authority, “Son, that was their version of a geological timetable.”  Of course, it begs the follow up, “How did 12th-Century Khmer people, well before Darwin and others planted their geological seeds, know of such a timetable?”  Furthermore, this “timetable” looks nothing like anything you will ever see in a textbook–a man above it and a monkey below it.  Based upon what fossil evidence did they create their carving?  There must have been hundreds of fellow “explorers” viewing these temple ruins with us in the few hours we were there.  Some of the fascinated people spoke in languages I cannot understand, but body language was pretty telling.  Others, Americans, British, Australians, and Canadians, all seemed to see that carving for what it most apparently was.  No one said, “That’s a rhino or pig.”  They called it a Stegosaurus.

How many other similar discoveries await reclamation from jungle vegetation, archaeological excavation, and geographic exploration?  In the different disciplines of science and history, man uncovers gems like Angkor Wat’s Ta Prohm from time to time.  Such clear, incontrovertible evidence from a time before our modern “war” between evolutionists and creationists begs to be examined with unprejudiced eyes.  While some may never change their mind regardless of how many items are offered into evidence, I believe that there are a great number of people out there who are honestly, objectively looking for truth.  The Stegosaurus at Ta Prohm near Siem Reap, Cambodia, might be the item that convinces many!

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Gary standing next to the column. Notice what/who else is in the carving with the Stegosaurus.

“Weapons Of Mass Instruction”

Neal Pollard

The Department of Homeland Security has a fact sheet about the threat of chemical, radioactive, and biological weapons, euphemistically referred to as “weapons of mass destruction.” The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director, Yukiya Amano, spoke recently about the potential harm terrorists could inflict if they get their hands on such materials (cf. dhs.gov; iaea.org). A self-defining term, such weapons, bombs equipped with such agents as smallpox or ricin, could tear through populated areas and cause havoc in communities. Weapon implies something aggressive and powerful. Mass suggests an untold, large number. Destruction means done away or undone. The prospect of such is unnerving.

Yet, the Bible calls itself a weapon. It’s a sword (Eph. 6:17). It is a precise, sharp sword (Heb. 4:12). God says His “word” is “like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock” (Jer. 23:29). The word of God fights and destroys evil. It tears down prejudice. It melts away stubborn disobedience. It slaughters the old man. Everyone who does not yield to it now will ultimately do so (Phil. 2:10-11).

This weapon is intended for the masses. As the gospel is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16) and the gospel must be preached to save (Rom. 10:10-17), the Great Commission—“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:16)—entails taking the weapon out of hiding and applying it is “all the word” by preaching it. We’re not permitted to conceal it. If the weapon is appropriately received, it elevates man in his plight here (John 10:10) while it cuts away the spiritual dross (Ps. 119:119), circumcises the heart (Col. 2:11-12), and surgically removes the sin that will keep a soul from heaven (cf. Jer. 4:4). There is not a soul on the globe that can do without exposure to this weapon.

This weapon, meant for the masses, builds up and enlivens (John 6:63). It bears fruit (Luke 8:15). It gives spiritual health (Prov. 4:22). It is an aid and help (Psa. 119:147) At least 48 times, God’s word is called instructions. The word is said to be profitable because it instructs (2 Tim. 3:16). It instructs us on how to walk and please God (1 Th. 4:1), how to have fruitful discussion (1 Tim. 1:5), and how to have wisdom and understanding (cf. Prov. 23:23). It is a weapon which, when used, can save a life for eternity.

Are we working as agents to disseminate this weapon of mass instruction? We do not want to be guilty of far worse than war crimes as we stand before the heavenly tribunal! Eternity demand that we use this weapon!

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19 WAYS TO TANGIBLY IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD TODAY

Neal Pollard

  • Try to spend 5 minutes of prayer in which you do nothing but praise Him.
  • Do something for Him that requires you to step out of your comfort zone—initiate a conversation with a stranger, give a tract to a co-worker you’ve been talking with, etc.
  • Have a devotional with your family.
  • Call a shut-in or stop by and visit a widow(er).
  • Write a missionary, expressing appreciation and giving encouragement.
  • Anonymously give a sacrificial amount of money for a family in need or someone dependent upon support (school of preaching student or teacher, missionary, etc.).
  • Contact an elder, asking him something you could do to help them in their work.
  • Make a list of at least 20 blessings God has given specifically to you.
  • Speak to someone at church services you have never spoken to before.
  • Invite a family from church you don’t know well over for dinner.
  • Put a packet with bottled water and granola bar, along with a tract, into a Ziplock bag to give to the person at the intersection asking for assistance.
  • Pick out a Bible book you are unfamiliar with and start breaking it down, looking for key words, purpose statement, and other clues to better understanding it. Take copious notes.
  • Pray for someone you are having problems with, an enemy, critic, or one who has offended you.
  • Alone or with your spouse and/or children, sing several songs of praise and admonition.
  • Carry a meal to a young mother who has had a difficult day.
  • Give a big smile and warm greeting to a fellow shopper or employee at a store or restaurant.
  • Ask the secretary for a list of last Sunday’s visitors and send them each a warm, brief note.
  • Think of an area for spiritual improvement in your life and ask God to help you focus on it, being transparent and sincere as you petition Him.
  • Ask the person closest to you (parent, spouse, sibling, etc.) something they need for you to pray for on their behalf.

Can you think of additional ways?

Launch Out Into The Deep

Neal Pollard

When Jesus met Peter, it may have seemed like an ordinary day to the Galilean fisherman. Simon Peter and his partners had just spent a long night fishing with no results.  You can imagine they were irritated and frustrated, maybe even feeling sorry for themselves. Then, Jesus commandeered Simon’s boat and used it to teach. This presumably would have been Peter’s first impression of Christ, though we do not know how closely he was paying attention to the Lord.  In Luke 5:4, Jesus stops preaching to the crowd and addresses Peter. He says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus has ulterior motives, but the command is for Peter to literally cast his nets to try to make a literal catch of fish. Immediately, though, Peter is exposed to something far greater than anything earthly or material. Notice how this account illustrates the call of scripture in which Christ tells us, like Peter to launch out into the deep in faith to do great things for Him.

Launch out into the deep…even if, despite great effort, you have failed in the past (Luke 5:5). Simon explained that he and his associates had struck out overnight. Jesus was telling him not to worry about the past. He tells us the same things today. If you have failed in trying to do right or have succeeded in doing wrong, don’t give up hope. Launch out again!

Launch out into the deep…at the prompting of God’s Word (Luke 5:5). Simon was willing. What a great character trait. He tells Jesus, “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Simon says, “I value and respect your word enough to try again where I failed in the past.” Do we trust God’s promises and revere God’s commands enough to keep trying and biting off big things for the Lord?

Launch out into the deep…and involve others with you (Luke 5:7). Of course, with the Lord’s help, Simon became a success. In fact, the disciple knew immediately that he was not big enough to tackle his opportunities alone. He got his partners involved. In the Lord’s church today, each of us as Christians are partners and associates together with Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-6:1). Launching out into the deep requires involving as many as possible, for the task is so great and too much for one alone.

Launch out into the deep…and astonishing things can happen (Luke 5:9-11). First, the catch of fish is astonishing to them. Then, Jesus’ commissioning of them is astonishing (to turn from fish to men). Finally, their response is astonishing. They get to land, leave their boats and all they have, and follow Jesus. Eventually, they change the entire world! Launch out into the deep.  Who knows what you can do through Christ (cf. Phil. 4:13), but it will be astonishingly amazing.

Obviously, this was about men and not about fish.  Jesus was not interested in making them rich fishermen in Galilee.  He was looking to enrich the people of Galilee and far beyond through these fishermen. All it took was for some men who believed in God’s power to launch out into the deep.

HOW BAD DO YOU WANT THE TRUTH?

Neal Pollard

Do you want the truth as bad as Jiang Xulian wanted a six-karat diamond from Thailand?  The 30-year-old woman stole the jewel from a jewelry fair in Nonthaburi, swallowed it, and tried to smuggle it out of the country.  CCTV caught the heist and an X-ray in Bangkok revealed the diamond in her large intestine.  Eventually, a surgeon removed the gem, worth $392,000, and Xulian faces three years in prison (read more here).

In successive parables, Jesus compared the search and pursuit of the kingdom of heaven to treasure, the first unspecified valuables and the second pearls (Mat. 13:44-46). David calls the law of the Lord “more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold” (Ps. 19:10; cf. 119:72, 127). Solomon adds his inspired counsel to “buy truth, and do not sell it” (Prov. 23:23).  Repeatedly, the Bible lays out the superiority of spiritual treasure above not only physical treasure but all else (Mat. 6:19-21).

  • Some do not stand in the truth (John 8:44).
  • Some question even the existence of truth (John 18:38).
  • Some suppress the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18).
  • Some exchange the truth for a lie (Rom. 1:25).
  • Some do not obey the truth (Rom. 2:8).
  • Some are not straightforward about the truth (Gal. 2:14).
  • Some do not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2 Th. 2:10).
  • Some do not believe the truth (2 Th. 2:12).
  • Some are self-deprived of the truth (1 Tim. 6:5).
  • Some have gone astray from the truth (2 Tim. 2:18).
  • Some are always learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Tim. 3:7).
  • Some oppose the truth (2 Tim. 3:8).
  • Some turn their ears away from the truth (2 Tim. 4:4; Ti. 1:14).
  • Some lie against the truth (Jas. 3:14).
  • Some stray from the truth (Jas. 5:19).
  • Some malign the truth (2 Pet. 2:2).
  • Some do not practice the truth (1 Jn. 1:6).
  • Some do not have the truth in them (1 Jn. 1:8; 2:4; etc.).

The point of Scripture is that these are people who not only do not want the truth but are trying to avoid it.  They lack sufficient hunger and desire for the will of God or the rule of God in their lives. It is not something they treasure.

What about us?  Do we want God’s truth so badly that we are willing to sacrifice, pursue, and strive to obtain it? Its value is without comparison! Its reward is beyond comprehension. Let’s encourage each other to be truth-lovers, willing to pay whatever price is necessary to have it.

See The Living God (Poem)

Neal Pollard

I cannot stop staring at the mountains and the skies

The beauty is so breathless, an endless feast for my eyes

I cannot look at all this and give credit to luck or chance

I’m a victor of the Creator, not a victim of circumstance.

The heavens preach this sermon, Our God He loves and lives

All nature shares the message, what joy and hope it gives

He’s up in heaven waiting until the day He’ll bring us home

For now He’s left us evidence, and we pray, “Lord Jesus, come.”

I cannot stop looking into my little baby’s eyes

I see his parents’ imprint when he laughs and when he cries

In awe my tears are welling as his face shows eternity

This little one God’s endless power shows to all who clearly see

You cannot look at people and fail to see the living God

Our design says a designer, to say “no God” is to play the fraud

He’s patiently waiting for more people to come to Him and live

What will you do with this moment?  Give what you have to give.

I cannot stop reading this Book that explains it all

My cause, my purpose, my destiny, His plan, His way, His call

It has proven to be perfect, it’s been tried and tried again.

It says there is an answer to my problem it calls sin.

The Bible shares the mind of God, it helps us find the way

It helps us understand His heart, and how to live today

It pierces our hearts so we’ll make room to put His will inside

How great our God to show us the path where we can walk at His side

In An Average Assembly, You’ll Find…

Neal Pollard

  • Brand new Christians
  • Young parents
  • The unemployed
  • Spiritual leaders
  • Those struggling with worldliness
  • Someone diagnosed with a serious condition
  • Strugglers with addiction
  • Couples with marital troubles
  • Those with loved ones no longer faithful to Christ
  • Widows/widowers
  • Someone who has been deeply hurt or betrayed
  • Those in serious financial debt
  • Those who are the only Christians in their family
  • Someone facing an enormous life change
  • Some who are experiencing great successes and good news
  • Empty nesters
  • Retirees
  • Community and business leaders
  • Those who grew up in the church
  • Expectant parents
  • Racial minorities
  • The highly educated
  • Extroverts
  • Introverts
  • The emotionally fragile
  • Singles
  • Divorcees
  • Those bearing burdening secrets
  • People brimming with optimism
  • Nurturers
  • Takers
  • Critics
  • Encouragers
  • The easily distracted
  • Those forced to attend
  • Hard working servants
  • The dutiful
  • The physically and mentally challenged
  • Daily Bible students
  • Non-Christians
  • Those who need to make serious spiritual changes
  • The lonely
  • Those without formal education
  • Smilers
  • Scowlers
  • The impatient
  • Notetakers
  • Probably 10,000 other “subcategories”

But, do you know what’s so amazing?  God knew that His single volume, the Bible, could reach into the hearts and lives of everyone of them through a single medium.  He calls it preaching (1 Cor. 1:18-25).  It worked 2000 years ago.  It works today.  What an awesome God to meet us right where we live through a message and means that fills our every longing.

METH-FLAVORED MILKSHAKE

Neal Pollard

It allegedly happened in 2014, but now Fred Maldonado is taking In-N-Out Burger to court for what he said he found at the bottom of his cup.  While their is some “fishiness” to his story and the restaurant “will vigorously defend [against] these baseless claims,” Maldonado “found a napkin and two capsules in the bottom of his milkshake cup” and “later testing revealed that the capsules contained methamphetamine” (from “Businesstech” article).

Search the internet a little and you will find more stories than you can probably stomach about what people have found in their prepared or packaged food and drinks.  As a consumer, the thought of such is enough to make you grow everything you eat and never eat out again.  In the supposed “meth” incident, add danger to disgust!  There is a certain amount of faith and trust one has that those responsible for getting his or her food (or drink) will give them what and only what they paid for.

Tragically, every Sunday in churches across the globe, people sit down to receive what they sincerely believe to be the “bread of life” (cf. John 6:35) and the “water of life” (John 4:10). They trust that the one who is delivering it to them, maybe one they consider a friend and a spiritual brother, is giving them exactly what is claimed—the Word of God. Yet, Scripture warns that there are those who taint the message with something far more appalling and dangerous than anything else could be.  Instead of truth, they get myths (2 Tim. 4:4). Instead of the sure word of Scripture, they get destructive heresies (2 Pet. 1:19-2:1). Instead of light, they get darkness (John 12:46). Instead of Christ, they get philosophy, empty deception, tradition of men, and elementary principles of the world (Col. 2:8).

Paul wrote that divine judgment awaits any who “did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:12).  The hearer has a responsibility to check what the teacher says, to make sure it is right and true (Acts 17:11).  God will hold everyone responsible for what they did with His Word. Even though teachers face a stricter judgment (cf. Jas. 3:1), He holds you and me responsible for avoiding dangerous, disgusting doctrine.  It takes practice to have our “senses trained to discern good and evil” (Heb. 5:14).  Take charge of your own spiritual nourishment, from what you hear on Sunday to what you read every day!

“Let’s Go Throw Rocks At The Campbellite Preacher!”

Neal Pollard

That one statement was what introduced my great grandfather to the gospel and is a big reason why my mom was raised in the church and why I was, too.  A “Campbellite preacher” (so named because of Alexander Campbell, a leading figure of the 19th Century who pleaded with people to throw off the division of denominationalism and restore simple New Testament Christianity) was in their Mississippi community, preaching at the local school house.  Several teenage boys, including my then 19-year-old great-grandfather, conspired together to stand outside and throw rocks at the preacher.  The big talk apparently came to nothing harmful, but standing out there my grandfather was convicted by the preaching.  As the result, he studied more deeply and carefully the Scriptures and found that the denomination he was a part of did not teach the same plan of salvation he read in the New Testament.

Plain, New Testament teaching and preaching, which faithfully and accurately handles the Scripture, has a profound effect on an honest heart.  One who is already persuaded that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, who is convicted that it was faithfully transmitted through time, can see from gospel preaching what God’s will is for “matters of life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).  Such allow the powerful Word to operate skillfully upon their hearts, being persuaded of its penetrating truths (Heb. 4:12).  Even one who may start out angry at the messenger but who is “fair-minded” (cf. Acts 17:11) will “receive the word with all readiness, and [search] the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things [are] so.”  Such an unprejudiced, open-minded attitude will serve such individuals well not only in learning how to become a Christian, but also in how to live the Christian life.  We must keep an honest and good heart if we will be the “good soil” Jesus praises in His parable of the soils (Luke 8:15).

Whatever your age, position in life, race, education level, or physical address, are you teachable? Do you receive the word in humility (Jas. 1:21)?  James says that your soul’s salvation is ultimately at stake.  Whether it regards becoming a Christian or living the Christian life, keep an open and tender heart!  You’ll be eternally grateful that you did.  So may many of your descendants!