Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).  

What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people. 

David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced. 

The first giant was the giant of degradation. 

David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals. 

The second giant was that of accusation.

In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).

The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.

He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining. 

Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!

“Dear church…”

“Dear church…”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

When I was in elementary school, we had a teacher who taught us how to properly write a letter. Miss Crews, my fourth grade teacher, told us it included the heading, greeting, body, complimentary closing, and signature. Isn’t it interesting what we retain (or fail to retain) from childhood?

Applying that basic analysis to the New Testament epistles, we are greatly helped. In addition to reading who the epistle of 1 Corinthians is from (1:1) and who it is to (1:2), we have a heading (helped by the information in verse 2), greeting (1:3), body (1:4-16:18), complimentary closing (16:19-20, 22-24), and signature (16:21). It is also in this first section of the letter (1:1-17) that we find the purpose of the letter. Notice some key aspects of these first several verses.

PAUL REMINDS THEM OF WHO THEY ARE (1:2-3)

In the daily grind, I can be apt to forget exactly who I am and who God has called me to be. It seems this had happened to the entire congregation at Corinth. Paul starts out this letter by reminding them they belong to God, set apart, and recipients of grace and peace. 

PAUL TELLS THEM WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR THEM (1:4-9)

Except for Galatians, Paul begins with a prayer, blessing, or thanksgiving. Here, Paul reminds them of how blessed they are–with grace (1:4), riches (1:5), confirmation (1:6), various blessings (1:7), hope (1:8), and fellowship with the Father and Son (1:9). I don’t know about you, but I often need to be reminded of how mindful the Lord has been of me. I need to reflect on my blessings so I won’t obsess over my problems. Paul is going to be addressing a serious problem in their lives, but he starts by centering their focus on their spiritual treasures. 

PAUL URGES SOMETHING OF THEM (1:10-17)

One of the ways a New Testament writer indicated the purpose of his writing is through petition verbs. While Paul actually uses a petition verb three times in this letter (1:10, 4:16, and 16:15), there’s no doubt that his first one sets the tone for the rest of the letter. They have a big problem at Corinth: division. We can see this in greater detail as we walk through the letter, but their division was seen in their allegiance to men instead of Christ, in their worship services, in their exercise of spiritual gifts, in their exercise of their Christian liberties, in their view on various sins, and more. So, Paul brings them into focus here.

  • He urges them to be complete, by being of the same mind and judgment (1:10).
  • He urges them to see the true nature of Christ (1:11-13).
  • He urges them to focus on the gospel and the cross (1:14-17). 

Keep in mind, as you read through this entire letter, that God had something He wanted Corinth and all subsequent churches and Christians facing the same general struggle to understand. It requires us to keep sight of our identity, blessings, and purpose. Otherwise, we open the door to division which can be the gateway to “disorder and every evil thing” (Jas. 3:16). 

photo credit: Flickr
Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For wisdom, one cannot beat God’s inspired Word. That Word, Jesus said, is truth (John 17.17). Even so, the secular works of man can be insightful. For example, soldiers and captains of industry alike still quote China’s Sun Tzu. From his work, The Art of War, we take our title. However, the full quotation is longer. Therefore, I will share it to provide context. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 1  

I realize some might say this is obvious enough to be a truism. Yet, for some, it is advice that seems so novel despite having parallels in Holy Writ. Doesn’t the Bible teach us to know our enemy as well as ourselves? Of course, it does.  

  • “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated) We see our enemy is on the prowl. That noun denotes stealth. Yet, it likewise signifies he is continuously on the move, a restless foe. This restlessness seems evident in the introduction of Job when we find Satan flippantly admitting to God’s question of where he has been that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1.7). Hence, in knowing our enemy, we expect that he will attack us at any time from any location. Thus, we must maintain our sobriety (i.e., sensibility) and state of preparedness (i.e., alert). As we introspectively examine ourselves, do we note that state of readiness to combat a cunning enemy? Do we have the tools for offense and defense ready? 
  • Paul reminds us that our battle is against spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6.12). And those enemies have a leader that likes to use “schemes” (“wiles” KJV) (Ephesians 6.11). In other words, we do not expect our enemy to fight fairly. In pure militaristic terms, the devil is engaged in guerrilla warfare. He cannot win the war against a superior enemy (i.e., God), so he snipes those he can. Within the same context, though, we observe what we have at our disposal: the panoply of God. God’s armor consists of a loin covering (truth), breastplate (righteousness), shoes (readiness), shield (faith), sword (God’s Word), and helmet (salvation) (Ephesians 6.13-17). These items we must wield with prayer and alertness if we desire to win (Ephesians 6.18). Do we actively use God’s armor, or has our apathetic spirit cast it aside? 

In all fairness, Sun Tzu admits that knowledge alone cannot ensure every victory. And we acknowledge that, as Christians, there are times when we lose a battle against the enemy. Everyone sins (Romans 3.23). There are even occasions when the enemy is in more significant numbers. In such situations, Tzu says it is best to avoid the enemy. Of course, we cannot do that as Christians (John 17.14-16). But we can flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6.18; 10.14; 1 Timothy 6.10-12; 2 Timothy 2.22). And we must keep good company to ensure we are not corrupted (1 Corinthians 15.33). We must periodically check our footing (1 Corinthians 10.12). And when we are seeking to restore someone, we must look to ourselves so that we are not tempted (Galatians 6.1). In the end, though, Tzu’s truism serves us well. We must know our enemy and ourselves. In the interim, as we fight this good fight, we look forward to the day when God will destroy the enemy. Until then, we take comfort from these inspired words: 

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5.4) 

Sources Cited 

1 Tzu, Sun. “A Quote from the Art of War.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/17976-if-you-know-the-enemy-and-know-yourself-you-need

The Real Thing

The Real Thing

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

“Let love be genuine.” This phrase from Romans 12.9 is familiar and deceptively simple. It sounds good and feels good! But what does it mean? 

It means we can’t pretend to love people. Ανυποκριτος means “not pretending” or “acting” something. In other words, don’t pretend to love people with the goal of getting something out of it. Don’t pretend to love people when we don’t. 

We don’t usually show our real selves to other people. Aside from our close friends and family, we show other people who we want them to see. There’s nothing wrong with this; all cultures adopt levels of social scripting and behaviors based on how close we are with another person. The church is a family, and it’s hard to remember that sometimes. We’d rather keep people at arm’s length (I’m guilty of this) than get into the messiness of close relationships. 

Once we get past the formal, arm’s length level of closeness, things get complicated and messy. But they’re also rewarding and uplifting! Whatever we see in our Christian family, God expects us to love like we mean it. There’s no room for fake in this family! Since our lifestyle can be challenging, we need to know that we can rely on each other.

God showed us genuine love by proving it. He proves it every day by keeping us “good to go” if we’re walking in light (I Jn 1). Showing real love has personal benefits, sure, but it mainly benefits others. We may never know how much showing genuine love impacts another person, but it could be the pivotal point of their relationship with God! How cool is it that, just by being genuine, we potentially change people’s eternity?! 

Time Management — Life and Favor (Job 10:12)

Time Management — Life and Favor (Job 10:12)

By Janelle Pollard As a nurse, time management is very important. There are often more tasks to do than it seems I have time for. Generally, what I do in the first 2 hours determines how the next 10 will go. Some mornings, I get right to work, doing full assessments on my patients, filling […]

Time Management — Life and Favor (Job 10:12)
God’s Solutions For Our Problems

God’s Solutions For Our Problems

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

It’s been said that the there are more stars in the known universe than all of the sand on earth combined. That being said, in just one grain of sand there are more atoms than all of the stars. That’s pretty amazing. Our planet is but a speck in the grandeur of space. Countless stars, planets, galaxies, lightyears and somehow God is well aware of the happenings of people. Have you stood on the mountain tops? Have you observed the power of the oceans as the waves crash on the shore? Has your heart almost stopped after the vibrating sensation of a thunder clap resonates in your chest? The might of the Creator is everywhere in the world around us and at times it just demands to be noticed. 
A section of scripture that is mysterious and fascinating is found in 1 Kings 19:11-13. The Lord of hosts is about to show Himself to a depressed and exhausted Elijah, but in a way that he would never forget. “The Lord said, ‘go out on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out to stand at the mouth of the cave. Then the voice said, ‘what are you doing here Elijah?’” In the solitude of Horeb, Elijah seeks to avoid the troubles of his world. 
The acoustics of the mountainous area along with the time spent in silence must have made the shattering rocks, raging fire, splitting hills, and rumbling earth all but deafening and definitely a terrifying display of divine power. Then in sharp contrast, a still whisper comes. This gentleness, no doubt, is the reason Elijah decides to cautiously emerge from his hiding place. God is teaching His worn-out servant a lesson that holds true for us today. The fact is, there is no more God, His wisdom, power, and presence in an earthquake than there is in the sweet breath of a blooming flower. The quiet ticking of a wrist watch reveals just as much intelligence and purpose as does the striking of a clock tower’s bell. 
One may walk out into an open field at night and stare up into the vast sky, lit up with numerous twinkling stars and declare, “I’ve found God!” But God is no more in the sky than He is in the blades of grass flattened beneath your feet. The question came to Elijah from that still voice, “What are you doing here?” To the prophet, his problems were too great and too large and his solution was to run and hide. God, in a magnificent way, is trying to remind Elijah of his place.
 Our place in life is not to take matters into our own hands or solve life’s many difficulties on our own. The answer is not to run away, but to walk humbly with our awesome God. He is strong enough to lift our burdens, wise enough to counsel us, patient enough to allow us to learn, and loving enough to constantly forgive. 

The Fisherman’s Trip To The Sea

The Fisherman’s Trip To The Sea

(Acts 9:32-43)

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Studying a map, Peter travels the road from Jerusalem northwest through Emmaus until he reaches the village of Lydda. This is the Lod of the Old Testament, part of the southern kingdom mentioned in 1 Chronicles 8:12, Ezra 2:33, and a few times in Nehemiah. The only time it occurs in the New Testament is in this paragraph. We can assume that the church was established by those present to hear Peter and the apostles preach on Pentecost. Or, perhaps, it was the efforts of those who were scattered from Jerusalem who went everywhere preaching the word (8:4). The route Peter takes to Joppa crisscrosses the road Philip took from Gaza to Caesarea Maritime (Azotus is a couple of towns south of Lydda). Whichever the case, there were already saints when Peter reaches Lydda. This includes a paralytic man named Aeneas, who Peter heals. This causes all who lived at Lydda and Sharon (Song of Sol. 2:1) to turn to the Lord (35). Faith is flourishing and the church is growing.

Peter continues his travels northwest until he reaches the seacoast city of Joppa (today, it is one of the most important cities in Israel, known today as Haifa). When Peter arrives, he’s also there to visit the church (36ff). About the time of his visit, one of the Christian women “fell sick and died” (37). We learn several things about her:

  • She was a disciple (36). This means she is a learner associated with Jesus’ views (BDAG 609).
  • She “was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did” (36). This should not surprise us, as it seems to further define and defend the fact that she is a disciple. Jesus went “about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (10:38). She was simply doing as He had done.
  • She was loved and missed by the local church (38-39). Her death was an urgent matter. They plead with Peter to come quickly. When he arrives at the upper room where she’s laid, the Christian widows are “weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them” (39). 
  • She was raised (40-42). Peter brings her back and presents her alive to the church. We can only imagine what joy this brought the church, but we know that this act caused many to believe in the Lord (42).

The miracles and signs performed in the early church all served the same purpose. They were to create faith in Jesus, the Man, His message, and His mission. Peter remains in Joppa many days, staying with a tanner named Simon (43). It is here that he will be a part of a dramatic turn of events that takes him north along the seacoast (Acts 10). 

When Peter was invited to follow Jesus, he was told, “…I will make you fishers of men” (Mat. 4:19). Did he take any opportunities to go down to the seacoast and fish the Mediterranean while at Simon’s house? I don’t know. I do know that his primary focus now was on fishing for men. God used him mightily in that effort, both to encourage the saints and reach the lost. Likewise, whatever we were and whatever we did before becoming a disciple of Jesus, He can use us in those ways (as He did Dorcas) and leverage our experience to bring about great results to His glory! 

Haifa (biblical Joppa) at sunset