“Snodgrass’s Muff”

Neal Pollard

It happened on October 16, 1912, the eighth (*) and deciding game of the World Series. In the bottom of the 10th, with his New York Giants winning by a run, Clyde Engle sent a lazy pop fly to centerfield.  Fred Snodgrass, an average hitter and dependable fielder, settled under it and ultimately dropped it.  A lot of other things happened. Snodgrass made a spectacular catch on the next play.  Hall of Fame pitcher walked the next batter.  Tris Speaker, before driving in the winning run with a single, hit a pop foul that both Fred Merkle (aka “Bonehead Merkle,” but that’s a story for another day) and Chief Meyers failed to catch.  Snodgrass’ blunder was the scapegoat for the Giants’ series loss to the Boston Red Sox. Fred would go on to be successful in business as a banker, an appliance merchant, and a rancher, was elected mayor of Oxnard, California, and served on the City Council for three terms.  There was so much more to Fred Snodgrass than a single unfortunate moment in time, but even his obituary read: “Fred Snodgrass, 86, Dead; Ball Player Muffed 1912 Fly.” In a 1940 interview, Fred spoke of how that fated fly ball would come up as he met or spoke with people (info via sabr.org and history.com).

Isn’t it interesting how a mistake or sin committed in a moment can have such lasting implications, bringing infamy and an enormous challenge of trying to live it down?  But doesn’t Snodgrass also prove that we do not have to be defined by our failures? Maybe our blunder is not played out with such renown and infamy, but it can still stay with us and dog our continued steps.

Have you dropped the ball with something?  Maybe you let down somebody you loved or somebody that was really counting on you.  Maybe you hurt someone special to you.  It might have been a foolish or ungodly word or deed when someone was watching.  The bigger the blunder, the heavier that burden of guilt might be in your heart.  There’s no excusing it. But what will you do now?  Will you let it keep you down or will you refuse to be defined by it?  The writer of Hebrews urges us, “Let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1b). The focal point must be what’s before us, not what’s behind us.  So said Paul (Phil. 3:13).

Dust yourself off. Regroup. Get ready for what’s next! Focus on what’s next, not on what’s over and done.

(*) Game 2 was called on account of “impending darkness”

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!

Selling What You Don’t Own

Neal Pollard

One of the more ingenious and amusing entrepreneurial moves I’ve ever heard is the company that offers to sell you a star.  For a price, you can buy a star and name it for a loved one.  The company will send you a gift pack along with registering the star in the name of the one you, the buyer, designate.  I have never been able to figure out how that company earned the right to sell something no one will ever visit, hold, or otherwise show tangible ownership of.

When I think about some of the new, strange religious ideas along with some long held, established ones, it reminds me of the folks selling the stars.  Preachers and whole denominations offer salvation on their own terms, altering and subtracting from the Lord’s established will as if salvation was theirs to offer.  They urge people to pray a prayer or accept Christ in their hearts, guaranteeing them salvation by so doing.  Or they tell a seeker that the Holy Spirit will irresistibly come upon them, filling them and by so doing indicate an experience of grace.  Or they urge parents to sprinkle their babies, saving them from what they call inherited sin.  The problem in all these scenarios is that people are offering what is not theirs to give.  Christ has already established the plan that saves the lost person—hearing the gospel (Rom. 10:17), believing it (Rom. 10:10), repenting of sins (Rom. 2:4; 6:17-18), confessing Christ (Rom. 10:10), and being buried in water in order to enjoy the new life in Christ (Rom. 6:1-4).

The same things occurs with worship.  People claim to stand in the place of Christ and tell others what is and is not acceptable to God.  They propose changes in who can lead in worship (cf. 1 Tim. 2:11-12), how worship music is to be done (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), and when the Lord’s Supper can be taken (1 Cor. 11:23-26; Acts 20:7).  Some would say that dance, weightlifting, incense-burning, drama, and the like are acts of worship God will accept, though they do so without a scintilla of appeal to the New Testament.

When it comes to the will of God, He has exclusive rights over that.  Christ does not share His authority with anyone (Mat. 28:18).  He makes the rules and determines right and wrong.  Beware of anyone who is selling anything else (cf. 2 Cor. 2:17).

SUCH AN EASY, DANGEROUS THING TO DO

Neal Pollard

There’s an old joke out there that goes, “Have you stopped beating your wife?”  If you say “yes,” you imply that you used to do it.  If you say “no,” you suggest that you are still doing it.  Obviously, the question may be where the problem lies.  If you do not beat your wife, the question would not be relevant and certainly not fair.

“I hear Brother So N So holds this position,” that “School X teaches error on such and such,” and that “Congregation A is ‘off’ on that.”  Too often, maybe based on a feeling that the source is credible, a person gullibly accepts the accusation at face value and even passes it along to others.  Of course, some are very blatant and public in teaching things that are contrary to the Word of God. They loudly proclaim and proudly publish their false views, but the aforementioned innuendoes and intimations are an altogether different matter. Why these rumors and accusations get started is sometimes hard to pinpoint.  Is it jealousy, misunderstanding coupled with indiscretion, meanness, or possibly something more benign?  Writing about presumption last year, I urged the presumptuous to “substantiate before you propagate, and then only carefully and prayerfully” (https://preacherpollard.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/the-problems-with-presumption/).

Solomon wrote that “a good name is to be more desired than great wealth” (Prov. 22:1) and that “A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth” (Ecc. 7:1).  While we are the primary stewards of our “good names,” others can tarnish it unfairly.

It is good to ask, “Do I know this rumor to be true?” Or, “Is it a matter of judgment and opinon with which I disagree, or is it truly a matter of doctrine and eternal truth?” Or, “Does the ‘reporter’ have an agenda that needs to be considered?” Or, “Why do I want to pass this along?”

“Slander” is a verbal offense that should not be in the Christian’s repertoire (Psa. 15:3; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; 1 Pet. 2:1).  That is “old man” activity!  It is easy to besmirch someone’s character and reputation, but what a dangerous thing to do.  May we bridle our tongues lest we set fires (Js. 3:3,6).

THE FAKE SIGNER

Neal Pollard

One of the stories coming out of the much-publicized memorial for Nelson Mandela is of a man who passed himself off as a language interpreter for the deaf.  The unidentified man, who stood beside international dignitaries including the president of the United States, was confirmed to be a charlatan by sign language experts.  His hand motions were meaningless, but his apparent attempt to make a quick buck outraged the deaf all around the world.  Apparently, this is the second time this man has pulled the wool over official’s, um, ears.  Driven by greed and taking advantage of the ignorance of the ones who hire them, people like this man have duped quite a few people.  None of them ever pulled off a hoax of this magnitude, though.

Perhaps words like audacious, covetous, or callous may come to your mind, hearing about this event, but a far greater travesty happens routinely around this nation and around the world.  Men (and women) pass themselves off as experts, but what they allege to be a truthful message is patently false.  Sunday after Sunday, they pass off error as truth.  Because too many do not study their Bibles or think for themselves, they are duped by those they trust.  The greatest tragedy is that the consequences of such dishonesty are infinitely greater in these scenarios.  Souls will be lost and not just the souls of the teachers.  The hearers will have believed a lie (cf. 2 Th. 2:11; 2 Tim. 4:4).  The preachers and teachers will “receive a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1) for scratching their itching ears (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The challenge in preaching is for both classes, the speaker and the listener. The speaker must declare only what is right and the listener must hear with discernment (cf. Heb. 5:14).  God will not allow any “fakes” to escape His notice.

AREA PREACHER SPEAKS FOR GOD ABOUT WORSHIP

Neal Pollard

The church in the Denver metro area is no different than most parts of this nation.  There are a few congregations of God’s people with whom we find ourselves deeply divided when it comes to worship, women’s role, the plan of salvation, and even how to view the Bible.  One zealous young preacher in the area has been doing much to defend a radical overhauling of the Lord’s church through his writing and preaching.  One of his more recent blog posts seeks to prove what he sees as the pressing need of the church to change, using the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale to illustrate this.  He contrasts the time before Tiger Woods’ hole-in-one there in 1997.  Before, there were conservative old men with cardigans tied around their neck and polite golf claps.  Since then, a coliseum has been built around the hole and rowdy college fans boo shots they deem not close enough to the pin.  Analyzing this Arizona anomaly, the writer credits new leaders who change the boundaries, bending to the local culture, capitalizing on the “right moment,” and meeting people’s expectations.

The thing that struck me most was that this no doubt well-intentioned young man tried to speak for God and the Holy Spirit.  He said, “God and the Holy Spirit are ready for a party.”  God shows up for worship at church camp.  God shows up at the worship at Pepperdine University (Where Christian Church members speak on the program, like Victor Knowles. Where church of Christ members who have added instrumental music, like Rick Atchley, Lynn Anderson, Jeff Walling, and others, speak. And where this young man and his wife speak).  He asserts that “we need a fresh wind of the Spirit” plus “leaders who will change the expectation in our worship experience.”  He ends by saying that God is “ready for a new day.”

Here’s the flaw in his assertion.  How do we know what the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit want from our worship? How are we to know what God is ready for or where God shows up?  Are we to take our brother’s word about what God wants?  No matter who speaks, this brother or any other, including me, we must “speak the utterances of God” (1 Pet. 4:11).  We do not have to guess at what God wants or desires.  He has revealed His will.  We do not keep on the cardigan or hold onto the golf-clap, to borrow our brother’s analogy, out of personal preference.  Only the Lord gets to make that decision, and He has informed us of His decision about our worship in His written revelation (see 1 Tim. 2:8-15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; etc.).

One need only visit the podcasts or watch video of the latest worship at this area congregation to see what our brother means by “fresh wind,” “right moment,” or “change the expectation” in worship.  It means women leaders.  It means a choir.  Will it mean instrumental music?  If the Spirit is instructing them differently than in His Word, what proof is there to confirm it?  What is to be done with the Spirit’s previous, once for all, sufficient work of Scripture?  Does it get jettisoned?  I will not speak for God, but here is what He said:  “But even if we (which included an apostle, NP), or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Gal. 1:8).  Let us be very careful what we teach (cf. Jas. 3:1)!

A DROP OF JOHN’S BLOOD

Neal Pollard

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, presented a drop of the late Pope John II’s blood to the St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Greeley, Colorado, last month.  The Associated Press reported that this is a highly-prized relic for the church, especially in light of rumors that the Vatican will soon name the late pontiff a “saint.”  Father Pawel Zborowski, of the Greeley church, said that Dziwisz “presented the drop of blood on a cloth encased in a decorated gold cross last month in Poland” (via Colorado Springs Gazette online).

The discerning Bible student will find much in the above paragraph to deconstruct, but focus for a moment on the value some have attached to the blood of a man venerated by a sizable percentage of people around the globe.  They carefully encase it, preserve it, and desire to display it.  They call it a “relic” (i.e., a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence). It is a rarity to be prized and treasured.

My purpose is not to debate the good and bad qualities of John Paul II.  He will stand before “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15), the same as you and me.  It is amazing, though, that much ado is made over inefficacious, ordinary blood, while the vast majority reject the only blood that can save.  His blood redeems (Eph. 1:7), washes away sins (Rev. 1:5-6), acquits (Rom. 5:9), makes holy (Heb. 10:29), brings near (Eph. 2:13), cleanses (1 Jn. 1:7), cancels our sin debt (Mt. 26:28), clears our conscience (Heb. 9:14), and purchased the church (Ac. 20:28).  I cannot literally contact that blood.  Jesus died 2,000 years ago, 8,000 miles from here.  In four different ways, God ties the blood of Christ to baptism (see John 19:34 + Romans 6:3; Matthew 26:28 + Acts 2:38; Revelation 1:5 + Acts 22:16; Hebrews 13:12 + Ephesians 5:25-27).  Christ’s is the only blood that matters!