WHAT’S IN YOUR HIDDEN ROOM?

Neal Pollard

I had an interesting seat mate on my flight from Dallas to Denver yesterday.  Sue grew up the daughter of a TWA executive whose job was to ensure customer service around the world was up to par.  This meant she grew up in places like India, Egypt, and France. Her dad helped make Saudi Arabian Airlines an international carrier in the 1960s.  What was more interesting was what she told me about her husband, who she described as a longtime atheist.  His father was a “pastor” for a denomination which forbad watching TV, listening to the radio, and even considered playing marbles a form of gambling.  The children, including Sue’s husband, were raised in such a strict atmosphere.  One day, however, the boy found a room normally locked.  His father had always explained that this was the place where he studied for his sermons and did church work, but what the boy saw inside was a TV, radio, and so many of the things he had been told were sinful.  The man would eventually leave the boy’s mother for another woman.

When I heard that, I immediately thought about the powerful impact we have as parents but also as Christians.  There are those, especially those who know us best, who realize we claim to live by a higher, spiritual standard.  We make that claim when we attend church services, but we also do through the rules and convictions we hand down to our children.  We say certain things are important while other things are to be avoided.  This is essential, though it should be guided by a proper, thorough investigation of Scripture.  Yet, far more valuable than our explanations is our example.  Those we influence most profoundly should see a consistent pattern of righteousness in our attitude, speech, behavior, and apparent motivation.  We should be frightened at the thought of creating a “hidden room” which denies the very standards we set up for others in our lives to follow.  The discovery of such a place can devastate their faith.

In Romans 2, Paul is rebuking the Jews who condemned the Gentiles for their sins while committing the same things.  “You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?” (21-23).  Paul’s point there is that Jews, like Gentiles, are sinners in need of God’s favor.  However, the net effect of such hypocrisy is that it caused “the name of God” to be “blasphemed among the Gentiles” (24).

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May we ever be in truth what we claim to be and tell others they should be.  Do you have a hidden room of spiritual horrors?  Dismantle it!

Disturbed

Neal Pollard

The ISIS beheadings so frequently in the news and readily available on the internet are terrifying to behold and consider.  If terrorism is, as the Mac Dictionary defines it, “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims,” such would be terrorist activity.  The latest spectacle, involving 21 “Coptic Christians” (Egyptian Orthodox religion), seems to show the Islamic State organization is eager to isolate and persecute those seeking to follow Christ.

Do you ever wonder if there will come a day where New Testament Christians in this country may face the threat of death for standing up for Christ?  It has certainly happened to God’s people in the past, especially when the church was first established.  We read about the persecution that started with Stephen then extended to the saints at Jerusalem in the book of Acts.  We read of individuals like Paul, who suffered for Christ on many occasions (2 Cor. 11).  Then, there are the statements made to encourage Christians who might be rattled or scared at the prospect of such treatment.  Twice, writing the Thessalonians, Paul was concerned they would be disturbed by trouble (1 Th. 3:3; 2 Th. 2:2).  He wrote about how persecution was, at times, inevitable (Ph. 1:29; 1 Th. 3:4; 2 Tim. 2:3; 1 Pt. 3:14).  Of course, Christ showed us His way includes suffering (1 Pt. 2:21ff).

The Bible also gives us great encouragement in the face of the disturbing prospect of suffering for our faith.  Consider a few highlights:

  • We can rejoice if counted worthy of suffering for Christ (Acts 5:41).
  • Those who suffer with Him will be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).
  • Suffering can give one a clearer perspective and priority (Phil. 3:8).
  • Suffering is a plain indication of God’s righteous judgment so that we’ll be counted worthy of His Kingdom (2 Th. 1:5).
  • It finds favor with God if we are faithful through our sufferings (1 Pt. 2:19).
  • It is better to suffer for doing right than doing wrong (1 Pt. 4:17).
  • We can entrust our souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Pt. 4:19).
  • The God of all grace will comfort those who suffer (1 Pt. 5:10).

I don’t think any of us relish or welcome the thought of suffering under any circumstances.  Yet, God has communicated these truths to us to help us decide in these potential trials.  Perhaps it will help us be less disturbed and more determined to be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).

“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.

Eliot’s Motto

Neal Pollard

The president of Harvard University in the last part of the 19th Century, Charles Eliot, had for his motto the words of Edward Everett Hale. Hale had said, “Look up and not down; look out and not in; look forward and not back, and lend a hand” (McCullough, Mornings on Horseback, 197).  While Eliot was renowned for being in his own world and not being very observant of students or others, his motto was extraordinary!

The practice of that motto would do wonders for our world.  If all of us, as Christians, could translate the sentiment of those words into daily practice, we would keep the waters of baptism stirring.  These words, properly understand, call for divine dependency, unselfishness, vision, and service.  If I understand the help God gives me, I will reach out in faith.  If I understand my need to be concerned for the other person before I worry about myself, I will reach out in love.  If I understand the importance of forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I will reach out in hope.  If I understand the importance of my being useful and cooperative, I will reach out in service.

Hale did not invent these ideas.  He commandeered them from the greatest source of inspiration and motivation possible—the Bible.  In fact, consider these same profound concepts just from the Philippian epistle. Paul says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (4:13).  He says, “With lowliness of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves” (2:3b; cf. 2:4).  He says that forgetting the past and reaching for the future, he could “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (3:13-14).  Throughout the letter, he urges these Christians to think about others and help them.

Taking on the challenge of that motto is not easy, but how rewarding it is!  How it rewards us is incidental; that is, we will receive joy in looking up, out, and forward. Yet, it will be rewarding for the many who will be touched and blessed because we had such a large view of life.  What is your motto?

An Aggressive Agenda

Neal Pollard

They use every opportunity to make it a part of the conversation.  It is as if they have a one-track mind.  However they can promote their cause, they do.  They will not quit until they convince you that what they believe is right and that you should accept it, too.  They are bold and willing to risk and sacrifice to get their point of view not only heard but accepted.  That there are still several places in the world where what they are preaching is unacceptable does not daunt or deter them.  Say what you will, they believe in their conviction and will continue to spread it.  They are purpose-driven.

Can you imagine Jews and those of the Roman Empire saying this about the Christians in the first century?  Armed with a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3), they, even in the worst times, “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).  They were accused of having “turned the world upside down” with their teaching (Acts 17:6). They had the reputation as “the sect…that [was] spoken against everywhere” (Acts 28:22). Yet, they would not stop until they had shared the good news everywhere (Col. 1:23).  They were not interested in popularity or even acceptance.  They were trying to get their point of view not only heard but accepted because it originated from the very mind of God.

Aren’t there people in this world who seem to have such a singular obsession? They are in special interest groups, and they have the cooperation and acceptance of rich and powerful people in the media, politics, education, and even athletics.  They are indefatigable, tirelessly and relentlessly pursuing their agenda.

What about the church of the 21st Century?  Do we have an aggressive agenda? Are we willing to share the Word of God, whatever it costs to whomever we can?  It necessitates this question. Do we truly believe it is both right and essential?  If it captures our minds, hearts and souls, we will not be able to keep quiet about it.  May we develop the reputation for steadfast single-mindedness!

BELLIGERENCE

Neal Pollard

Occasionally, I run across someone whose sincerity and earnestness I do not doubt but whose manner and tack are incredibly brusque, confrontational, and antagonistic.  These same ones seem to frame questions disingenuously, almost as if to entrap you with the information they think they already know or pin you to positions they already believe you take.  They may be quick to want to ascertain whose side you are on or what your stand is, even in matters that can be terribly complex and not so easy to answer.  Their seeming attitude toward others is that they are guilty until proven innocent or that the ones they are examining are innately unwilling to stand up for what they, the “examiner,” believe is the truth.

This same belligerent approach was often taken by the Jewish leaders during Jesus’ ministry.  They would come up with a scenario for Him simply to entrap Him or try and use His words against Him.  Even though Jesus always answered correctly and never sinned or took a “wrong position,” they eventually twisted His words as part of their ploy to have Him crucified.

Ironically, these would deem themselves God’s staunchest defenders of the faith.  Yet, through deceit, manipulation, unrighteous judgment, and the like, they reflect worldliness and fleshly works which God addresses in scripture.  In Galatians five, Paul calls such things as “contentions,” “outbursts of wrath,” “selfish ambitions,” and “dissensions” works of the flesh (20).  In instructions on dealing with one another, Paul tells Ephesus that such things as “bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (4:31-32).

There are brethren in Christ who have compromised God’s truth, and this has sadly occurred in every part of the country.  That is not what is under consideration here.  There are also some who are intent on redrawing smaller and smaller circles of fellowship all the time.  They are using as criteria laws they have made and standards that are from themselves.  No one can very easily or for very long stay inside their circle.  But let us not be bullied or intimidated into thinking that something is wrong with us if we do not walk lockstep with the belligerent.  Let us pray for them and continue to have the courage to speak what is truly truth in a way that is truly loving!