Categories
temptation

When the Tempter Has You Out On A Limb

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

 

You can learn much by observing nature. Not only can one know God by looking at nature (Romans 1.18-20), he can learn specific lessons on various topics by looking at specific aspects of God’s creation (e.g. ants teach industry, Proverbs 6.6-8). I was watching a humorous scene outside my office window recently and was reminded of this.

 Our household, despite being full of “dog-people,” has cats for “pets.” Let’s just say that we feed the cats and provide them outdoor shelter for keeping mice, moles, and snakes away from the house. In many respects, they’re feral but become domesticated long enough to eat the kibble we put out. And, if they feel like initiating it, contact resembling petting may occur. If there is one thing I don’t like about cats, though, it is their murderous nature. Even though well-fed, cats will kill for sport. 1

 This latter observation creates a conflict for someone who has always enjoyed feeding and watching birds as well. We had to give up putting out birdseed when the cats became a part of our household. At first, the birds avoided our house. Yet, kittens learn by watching adult cats. If adult cats don’t teach kittens how to hunt, they aren’t as successful at it. As the senior hunters have passed from disease and predation or gone fully feral, being chased off by other cats, the birds have begun coming back without our encouragement. Frankly, I think a few of those “birdbrains” must be rather smart.

 One such smarty was teasing one of our cats the other day. He or she served as a good example of the tempter. As Angelo, a cat with a pattern of “angel’s wings” on his back, was slowly climbing up a budding, dogwood tree, the bird did not fly away. Instead, the avian adversary just side-stepped further to the right out on to thinner branches. The higher Angelo climbed, the thinner the branch on which the bird rested became. It seemed as if the bird knew that if Angelo tried to pounce on him or her, he would go crashing to the ground while he or she would just fly away. Angelo really thought about his situation. It took him several minutes, but he finally understood that despite his prowess, continuing towards his coveted prize would lead to his harm. Thus, to his chagrin, he slowly made his way back down the tree to the safety of the ground below.

 Herein is the lesson from nature. The tempter will lure you out from “relative safety” in order to bring your desire close, only to ensure when you pounce on it, you will end up falling flat on your face (consider Romans 6.23). We must ensure we are aware of where we are (Hebrews 2.1-4). The branches upon which we make our way may grow thin quickly, depriving us of a solid foundation, and causing us to fall.

 Of a truth, no one ever sets out to fall, he just fails to appreciate the gravity of the situation. Keep your eyes on what lies beneath your feet (1 Corinthians 10.12).

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1 Traywick, Catherine. “Killer Kitties: Study Proves They’re Not as Innocent As They Look.” Time, Time, 9 Aug. 2012, newsfeed.time.com/2012/08/09/killer-kitties-study-proves-theyre-not-as-innocent-as-they-look/.

Categories
Bible Bible study direction guidance

The World Is Desperate

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Generalizations are almost always wrong. For example, just because you’re from Colorado doesn’t mean you smoke weed, or just because you’re homeschooled doesn’t mean you’ve never seen a person before. Just because you live in Alabama doesn’t make you an Alabama fan. Just because many people fall into a category, doesn’t mean that every person is the same.

There is one generalization that is true: the world is desperate. Without Christ, many issues in life go unsolved. Family problems are harder to overcome, job issues get blown out of proportion, and questions go unsolved. Over the next few weeks I’d like to look at three major issues that the world has no answer for. But these three topics are easily explained through God’s Word.

Each one of us has had these thoughts before. Every single person ever born at some point will have these questions. So number one, the world is desperate for Guidance (Psa. 119:105). Ever been lost? It is amazing how easy it is to get turned around. I’m terrible with directions, and even with maps up on my phone, I still find a way to get lost.

The world feels the same way–they’re lost. They don’t have direction in life. They float around going from one thing to the next looking for guidance. As Christians, our guide is God’s Word. It gives us a map for life. Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, has to do with guidance. Each section in this chapter covers different aspects of keeping God’s Word. In the first eight verses, the psalmist says things like, “blessed are those who walk in the Law of the Lord,” and “I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.” The rest of the chapter sticks with this pattern.

If you ever find yourself questioning why you follow scripture, study this chapter and you will find reason after reason. Looking at verse 105, it says this, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Are you anxious? Turn to God’s Word. Are you hurting? Turn to God’s Word. Are you afflicted? Turn to God’s Word (119:107). Has your family disowned you? Turn to God’s Word. Have your kids left the Church? Turn to God’s Word. Did you lose your job? Turn to God’s Word. See, the world doesn’t turn to scripture when it faces these problems, and they are left without a guide, without comfort, and without something to rely on. There’s a reason God inspired men to write the Bible, and that reason is so that flawed man can have a guide through life.

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As my dad and Wes Autrey demonstrated in Yellowstone Park, you also                    need to know how to use a roadmap to avoid getting lost.

 

Categories
Uncategorized miracles

It’s A “Miracle”?

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

It is tempting to believe that an incredible recovery, acquisition of a needed job or asset, or escape from a major life issue is an example of the miraculous. In the religious world, a miracle is something a few believe can be invoked with prayer, a special religious service, or even a social media post (“pray that ______ will be healed by a miracle from God”).
Despite living in an age where notions of the supernatural are considered unscientific or are chalked up to circumstances we simply don’t understand yet, there is still much confusion surrounding the miraculous.
Miracles served a specific purpose both in the Old and New Testaments: they were designed to glorify God. Parting the Red Sea, striking a rock to get water, a talking donkey, an endless supply of oil and flour, the sun standing still, and all of the other miracles were – by design – impossible to perform without divine help. The Hebrew word for miracle meant “a sign or wonder” (Hebrew & Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament). Its purpose was to prove to the recipient that God was in control, was all powerful, was perfect, righteous, to be feared, and to be obeyed. Miracles were also used to prove that someone’s message was actually from God or that God was with them.
In the New Testament, miracles served to prove that Jesus was the Son of God and that the Apostles’ message was certainly from God. Water was turned into wine, the dead were raised, sicknesses were healed, people who were uneducated could suddenly speak multiple languages, predict the future, read someone’s mind, etc. The Greek word for miracle meant “a deed that exhibits the ability to function powerfully” (BDAG 263). These deeds were impossible to perform without God’s help, and they served a specific purpose: to prove that a message came from God, or to prove that a purpose originated with God.
While it certainly is a nice sentiment that an otherwise unlikely recovery or escape is an example of the miraculous, it’s important to remember that miracles served a specific purpose no longer relevant to our time. We no longer need miracles to prove our message comes from God because we have His complete and perfect word in scripture (I Corinthians 13).
Not having miracles in our world may be a downer to some, but we have this to look forward to: a place without sin for those who die faithful (II Peter 3.13). A place without death for those who die in Christ (Revelation 20.14). A place without sorrow for those who sleep in God after a lifelong battle in this sinful world (Revelation 21.4).
Miracles existed because this world is fallen (Romans 8). Their purpose was to demonstrate God’s power over Satan and sin in a world characterized by all that cannot coexist with goodness. Those who are living life in view of the next find hope and comfort in the miracle of Scripture, the miracle that will bring us home if we follow it.
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A view of the Valley of Aijalon, where God caused the sun to stand still. 
Categories
adversity hope optimism

How To Make The Best Of A Bad Situation 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Rattlesnakes are large, venomous snakes that live throughout North and South America. In my humble opinion, they are one of the most terrifying creatures on the planet–from the hair-raising sound of that rattle to those intimidating fangs that can be up to six inches long. The bite from one of these monsters is excruciatingly painful. If you were to be bitten, at first you would experience a tingling feeling, followed by an intense burning sensation. After this you would feel lightheaded and begin sweating profusely. Your vision would become blurry, and each breath would be more strained than the last one.

If left untreated, it can be fatal to humans. All of that sounds terrible doesn’t it? What good could possibly come from a deadly rattlesnake? Well, at some point in history, somebody looked at these snakes and decided that they would make a beautiful pair of boots. That’s how to make something great, out of something terrible. There is no doubt in my mind that the inventor of snakeskin boots was an optimist. He could see the good, even when staring into the dark vertical pupils of pure reptilian evil.

When faced with hardship, that simply comes from living in a fallen world, it can be a challenge to see the silver lining in each dark cloud. American basketball player, Charles Barkley once said, “Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.” That’s definitely how it can feel sometimes! Although we have books in the Bible like Job and James that teach us how we should view our earthly struggles, here are just a few reminders from our God.

Number one, remember that each day is worth rejoicing over. Psalm 118:24 gives us the reason why— because today is another day that the Lord has made. It’s not my day; it’s God’s day. Reminder number two, what we can’t see in times of difficulty, is worth waiting for. Paul would inform us in Romans 8:27, “But if we hope in what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” In the muck of life it may feel at times that there’s just no way out. Just because you may not see the end in sight, rest assured that our hope is in a promise that was put in place before time itself began (2 Timothy 1:9). The last reminder is simply this, that God made the world you are living in and Jesus is currently creating the world we will one day live in (John 14:1-3). I firmly believe each day that passes can only mean that heaven will be that much more beautiful. If God created this world in six days, in all it’s beauty, imagine the splendor of our home to come. Now, if that doesn’t make a bad situation a good one, I don’t know what will! Here are the lyrics to an optimistic hymn that I hope get stuck in your head for quite a while.

“I care not today what tomorrow may bring, if shadow or sunshine or rain. The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything, and all of my worry is vain. Living by faith in Jesus above, trusting confiding in His great love. From all harm safe in His sheltering arm, I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.”

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One of two pair of rattlesnake skin boots I own.
Categories
eternal life plans redemption salvation Scheme of Redemption

Heaven’s “Start Up”: The Ultimate “Rags To Riches” Story

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

Some of the wealthiest companies, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Amazon, Mattel, Google, Tesla, and The Walt Disney Company, started in the quaint, quiet haven of a garage. Often, they had little more than an idea of a product or service, but they refused to stop until they achieved success. These rags to riches stories intrigue us and fire our imaginations.

Have you thought about the “start up” that began in heaven? It was conceived in the eternity before time. A couple of millennia ago, a poor couple staying in an obscure little village laid a newborn baby boy in an animal trough. This Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him as He kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. Nothing more is said about this amazing adolescent until He is thirty years old and began sharing new ideas and promising the thing every person in every place in every generation absolutely cannot afford to be without. 

Though He was executed for His radical claims, thoughts, and actions, His followers refused to keep what He had to offer hidden. Many of them gave their lives to advance this cause, they believed so much in it. Most of them were poor, uneducated, and ordinary people, but they relentlessly carried His offer to every creature under heaven. People began to describe their efforts by saying these men have turned the world upside down! 

And indeed they have. Those who heard the Man who started it all shared it with those who shared it until this ultimate hope went everywhere. Today, multiplied centuries today, their work lives on. Taking that same, original plan, written down in one Book, people of every race, color, country, and economic strata continue to start from nearly nothing and grow in extraordinary ways. 

No wonder! That newborn is God in the flesh. What He came to offer is the eternal salvation of our souls. Where He offers it is in His body He calls the church. Anyone can have it, if they are willing to give Him everything they are and have. At this very hour, there is an untold number of men, women, and young people who desperately want what He has to offer, but they need to know how to get it. That’s where we come in. He is counting on us to share His offer today, while there’s time for them to take advantage of it. If we truly believe in the power of it, nothing will keep us from getting this indescribable gift to the masses!

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Categories
encouragement preaching

My First Sermon

Neal Pollard

My dad was holding a gospel meeting somewhere in the Carolinas and he asked me to preach the Sunday evening sermon of the week he was gone. It was April 12, 1987, and I was a Junior at Bradwell Institute (high school) in Hinesville, Georgia. He gave me one of his sermons and I basically, with little change, got up and preached it. I remember being scared out of my mind. I had no formal training (which is obvious from the grammar and pronunciation). Afterward, the congregation flooded me with compliments, which says everything about them and nothing about my abilities. But, it encouraged me. It helped solidify my desire to preach and became the foundation for my willingness to go preach around the area over the next year-plus (preaching in such places as Glennville, Jesup, and Brunswick, GA). It led me to choose Faulkner University, to major in Bible and meet great preachers and teachers like Wendell Winkler, Ken Randolph, Carl Cheatham, Leonard Johnson, Eris Benson, Donnie Hilliard, and others. My family led me to believe that gospel preaching was an honorable, important occupation. So did the Hinesville church of Christ, on that occasion and subsequent ones. So did brethren in those places where I filled in.

What an important lesson for families and congregations today! Paul asks some questions of eternal consequence: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:14-15).  I pray that more adults will send a clear message to young men: preaching is important, respectable, and valuable! It should be considered as an option exercised by normal and even talented and intelligent individuals.

We’ve been engaged in full-time ministry for 28-plus years, and it has blessed our lives tremendously! It’s thrilling to watch our three sons giving themselves to that life, too. Let’s send more preachers!

(It’s hard for me to listen to, but it should encourage anyone who says, “I don’t have any talent for preaching!”)

Categories
adversity Christian duty productivity time Uncategorized

When Adversity Makes You Feel Unproductive

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

If there’s one thing disappointing me most, it’s the lack of productivity I often feel. There are many things I want to do. I don’t think I get even a quarter done. For many facing a similar predicament, it’s a matter of poor time management. Time is precious. We’re told to make the most of it since the days are evil (Ephesians 5.16). Contextually, this pertains to the efforts made by first-century Christians in their daily walk. Persecution was coming. Indeed, for some, their lives would soon be at an end. Did they want to depart for eternity’s shore feeling as if more could have done but had not been? That message remains prescient today. We enjoy civil liberties now including religious freedom. However, a tempest has been growing for half a century which seeks to strip away the vestiges of religion and morality from the body politic. In but a short time we may face the same uncertain prospects as they. Hence, our struggle to be productive is as important as ever.

This exhortation may be limited in scope, but I wish to address those who might have certain mitigating factors making Paul’s inspired admonition more difficult to keep. It’s one thing to be a timewaster when one is able-bodied. It’s another matter entirely when you’re limited from accomplishing as much by the limitations of the flesh. There are those accustomed to doing much. One day they young, full of vigor. In the blinking of an eye, though, they no longer recognize the person staring back at them in the mirror. The snow of many winters covers what hair is left on their heads. For such, it hurts getting out of bed. Something as simple as buttons on garments becomes a time-consuming challenge. They may be asking, “Why can’t I get as much done as I used to?” This can be especially vexing, spiritually.

Perhaps, you have an illness of the body or mind. Maybe you don’t have old age to blame for your aches and pains but an autoimmune disease that others dismiss because, from appearances, you look fine. Not only are you in pain but you feel alone because some have unfairly surmised you’re just lazy. It could be that you’ve had chemotherapy and experience what has been termed “chemo brain.” You find yourself struggling to remember simple details. If you don’t write something down, you’ll forget about it. Truly, I could share a plethora of other scenarios in which some malady besets the body or mind and causes one to feel unproductive or a timewaster. These should suffice.

Fortunately, we serve a gracious God. Not only is His grace sufficient for coping with our lot in life (2 Corinthians 12.9), but it takes into consideration our current estate. One can debate whether there are degrees of punishment from Luke 12.48. That’s not my purpose. A principle is established here, however, stating that we’re held accountable according to the responsibility entrusted to us. Why would God hold the enfeebled or impaired to the same standard as the able-bodied? This must be true of redeeming one’s time as well. Note, one cannot forsake his or her Christian duty. Yet, rather than beat up on yourself because of what you left unaccomplished, trust that God knows your situation intimately. The main thing is to show up and do the work of which you are capable (Matthew 20.1-16; 21.28-32). This is how you remain productive even while facing adversity in these evil days.

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Categories
Christ Jesus Jesus Christ

“High Carb Diet”

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

We all love a good piece of bread. Whether it’s garlic bread, cheesy bread, or just plain bread, everyone loves it. Bread is the greatest invention of all time, maybe ever (can you tell I wrote this before lunch?).
Jesus is described as being our spiritual bread. In John 6:35 Jesus is the “bread of life.” And in verse 32 He is called “the bread out of heaven.” Why would Jesus be called bread? When we take a closer look at these two verses, we can notice a few reasons why.
“Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven” (John‬ ‭6:32‬). There’s an analogy given by John that helps us to wrap our mind around Jesus being the Bread. Moses provided manna in the wilderness for Israel (bread from heaven), and Jesus (the bread) was sent from heaven to feed us spiritually.
It was amazing growing up with mom, THE Kathy Pollard, as the cook. And many times we would describe her food as “out of this world.” When we think of Christ, the Bread out of Heaven, He is literally out of this world.
Point is, we need to be feeding ourselves with this Bread. We need to be consistently meditating on God’s word, continually making it apart of who we are, and courageously manifesting it in our everyday lives.
“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John‬ ‭6:35‬). Two words in this verse are in the present tense– “comes” and “believes.” This means that for Jesus to be our bread we must continually come to Him and believe. Jesus is nourishment to those who are spiritually starved, mentally broken, and emotionally lost.
No matter how much bread we physically eat, it will never compete with how full and complete we will be in Christ. Are we turning to Him?
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Just an example of some of the bread mom sustained me with growing up
Categories
church church (nature) elderly unity youth

Unity Between The Old And The Young

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

An engine needs three things to run: fuel, spark, and air (compression). Engines have come a very long way since their initial designs and unless you’re driving an e-car, these items still have to be in place and tuned properly. I’m partial to older engines simply because they’re easy to understand and work on. 

When diagnosing a problem, you can often tell if you’re getting fuel by looking at the in-line filter or simply smelling for it. You can tell if you’re getting spark by disconnecting a plug, grounding it to the body, and looking for a spark. You can tell if you have compression by sticking your finger over a plug-hole and turning the engine over. The older engines were simple. 

Newer engines are far more difficult. They operate under the same basic rules, but computers and fuel injection systems and tight spaces make it much harder to work on them. However, they are generally more reliable, fuel efficient, and powerful. Carl’s 1986 F-150 with a 351 Windsor (5.9L V8) has about half the power (and a third of the fuel economy) of his 2017 F-150 with a 2.7L Ecoboost, for example. 

The church is made up of more than just one generation. There are both old people and young people. Both are prone to emphasizing the strengths or weaknesses of their generation when it comes to the health of the church. Young people might complain that old people move too slowly (getting things done), are too traditional, and have no place in the future of the church. Old people might complain that young people are too quick to change things, don’t take church seriously, and are self-centered. 

Both generations are vital to the health of the church. The elderly bring experience, toughness, and proven life experience to the table. They’ve been through it, they’ve seen it, and they got through it. Younger Christians must learn from this experience and show older Christians the love and respect they deserve. Younger Christians bring energy, enthusiasm, and a willingness to execute vision to the table. As stated before, modern engines still have the critical components of older engines at the heart of their function. They may be more efficient, but would not be operational without those functions. 

When the church works together, older and younger alike, to promote growth, unity, and faithfulness, the result is awesome. No other group can enjoy that kind of peace! A church that works together will influence the world in ways that terrify satan. Not only is this something we should want, it’s also commanded (I Timothy 5.1; Romans 12.10; See also Leviticus 19.32; Proverbs 16.31). 

In a polarized world, we can really make a difference when we’re loving and respectful to everyone in our spiritual family. It is a breath of fresh air to anyone who experiences it, it proves the church is from God, and it will save lost souls. 

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My brothers and me with Ela Beth and George Bailey at Polishing the Pulpit, 2008
Categories
discipleship people relationships

People Skills From God

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Some people just seem to be born with great people skills. Perhaps their personality type just naturally draws others to them. While natural ability may give some a leg up, the great news is that anyone can learn to work well with others and you can develop better interpersonal skills. In fact, it’s really a biblical command! The church is made up of all kinds of people and that being the case, we must all be in the people business. Thankfully, our Lord doesn’t leave us high and dry to try and figure these things out on our own. 

Dispersed throughout the Bible we find several sections of scripture that teach us how to communicate, empathize, and get along with others effectively. God’s interpersonal skills cannot be matched. As the Creator, He understands exactly how humans think and behave. Here are twelve insights on interpersonal skills sent to us from above.

 

  1. Speak evil of no one (I Thess. 5:14) 
  2. A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1) 
  3. The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21)
  4. Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2) 
  5. Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10) 
  6. Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)  
  7. As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31) 
  8. Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12) 
  9. Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact with Him? (Matthew 25:40) 
  10. Season your speech with grace. It’s the saviors All-Spice for every relationship building goal (Col. 4:5-6) 
  11. Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)
  12. Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15) 

Notice how many passages in the Bible command us to speak differently than everyone else? All of these insights can be simply summed up in just one sentence. Talk, walk, and live more like Jesus. He was perfect in every way and that includes how he interacted with others. Modeling ourselves after the Savior will not only improve our relationship skills with others, but also with Him. Jesus also teaches us that no matter how gentle and loving we are, we’ll still make some people upset. That’s alright! As long as we’re acting like the Lord in all things. 

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