Categories
Christian living life simplicity

A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

 Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We would all like to improve in many ways, but many of us are also well aware of the flaws we feel are holding us back. Those shortcomings tend to get in the way, slow us down, or even prevent us from achieving the quality of life that we desire. While there is plenty of room for improvement in my life, I have found that there is a simple way to clearly envision where I am currently, and also plan for where I would like to be in the future. 

It’s true that our burdens often come from our blessings. For example, the blessing of having a car may result in the burden of expensive bills that follow a mechanical issue. 

I believe that there are five major buckets of blessings that we all must give our time and attention to. They are the five categories that if purposefully tended to, our lives can be wonderful. On the other hand, if neglected, we find ourselves in a head spinning spiral of worry and anxiety. 

These buckets are: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Mental maturity 
  3. Physical health 
  4. Relationships 
  5. Work 

If one of those buckets isn’t filled with the proper content, I’m sure you’re aware of the negative effects. If these crucial categories are filled correctly, our quality of life will only improve. 

God is the Creator of life itself which makes Him the leading authority on the subject. Consider how He can help you in each of the five areas listed above.

Faith 

By denying self, our focus is diverted away from our negative self- absorption. Putting God and others first can give you a better, fresh, and positive perspective. 

Acts 20:35

Mental maturity 

When we seek to understand our own minds and what makes us tick, we’ll be able to identify where these negative thoughts and reactions originate. 

Philippians 4:8

Physical health 

Poor health habits like fast-food diets, lack of physical exercise, and sleep deprivation only make dealing with stress all the more difficult. God designed your body to function properly when properly taken care of. 

Luke 1:37 

Relationships 

Every kind of relationship, whether marriages, friendships, family, co-workers, or the church, has one thing in common—they were made by God. Thankfully, God wrote a book to help us understand who we are to be to each individual that make up those groups. 

Romans 12:16

Work 

God built us to work— He expects us to. Some choose to be lazy and suffer. Others choose to constantly work to the neglect of the four other areas mentioned. There must be a balance, and God knows that. 

Psalm 128:2 

While there’s a lot more to be said concerning these five categories, I hope this simplified things and helped you refocus on what really matters. 

Hopefully, looking at life through His divine lens has reminded you of Who you should turn to for everything. He has given you the ultimate assurance— and He is willing to give you the ultimate assistance. 

Categories
life providence suffering trust

A Message From The Rattling Bones

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Six hundred years before Christ would make His providential appearance, a righteous man finds himself in captivity. While exiled, Ezekiel, was able to witness the spirit of God in a very intimate way (Ezekiel 1). Even so, he was still living under the thumb of the Babylonians like every other Israelite with him. While under these unideal circumstances though, he is privileged to see awe-inspiring visions from God. Have you ever paid attention to the eerie sensations described throughout this book? In Ezekiel 1:4 the prophet feels a great and stormy wind on the bank of the river Chebar. The wind brings with it a massive cloud with fire flashing around it and a substance like glowing metal in the center of it. The wings of the creatures he saw (verse 24) made sounds like that of roaring waters. The voice of the Almighty was like the sound of a great army camp. What sights he was able to see! This great connection to God didn’t take away his pain or sorrow, though.

 Chapter 19 is one long lament as Ezekiel cries over his hardhearted Israelite brothers. Why won’t they listen to him? Even after Ezekiel performs some radical visual illustrations like eating his bread over dung and laying on his side for an entire year, they won’t respond to the “invitation.” How frustrating is that, preachers? God never abandons His faithful servant, but His confused prophet is still left to wonder what God is going to do about the mess which makes up his reality. A familiar feeling for many faithful Christians today.  

Never underestimate the hand of the Almighty. This truthful statement can be pulled from Ezekiel 37, when the prophet is taken up and then placed in the middle of a dark valley. Ezekiel is surrounded on all sides by heaps of dry human bones and he’s probably wondering why in the world God has taken him to such a place. The text answers the question by asking a question. God speaks to Ezekiel and says, “Can these dry bones live again?” What an odd thing to ask. However, Ezekiel responds, “Only you know, O Lord.”

 It’s always when we’re deep in the valley’s of life that we’re forced to answer the difficult questions about God’s abilities. When we’re surrounded by darkness, the question we have to ask is, “Does God have the power to see me through this?” If you remember, Ezekiel has become frustrated with the fact that Israel just won’t listen to him or Him. He’s lost hope in their ability to change— they’re just too far gone. However, God demonstrates to His prophet in a dramatic way that NOTHING is impossible for Him. 

He doesn’t bring the bones to life in the blink of an eye, but we know He could have. Instead, He allows Ezekiel to hear those bones rattle and to hear the sounds of fibers and flesh sticking together. He wanted to leave an impression on Ezekiel to demonstrate the might of the Almighty. Ezekiel had no idea how those bones came to life, but he knew one thing for certain. God did it. You may not understand why God has allowed you to enter your valley, but you can be certain that He has the power to see you through. You are standing on your two feet because God has given you the strength to do so. God has promised His faithful servants a heavenly light at the end of our tunnels and whatever God says— He will always accomplish (Ezekiel 37:14). 

Categories
contentment endurance illustrations life

Life Illustrated 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Contentment In Life 

As a young boy I can clearly remember the feelings I had in school. I was ready to be done with text books, math, science, and all the other trials and tribulations that I felt were too much for me to bear. I longed for the day when I could set my own bedtime, go where I wanted to go, spend money on whatever I wanted, and be looked at as an adult. I wish there was still a once-hated nap time scheduled in my daily life. My life, like many others, consisted of school and play, yet I looked forward to a future life that my young heart deemed better. It’s not better and it’s not worse— rather I’m just faced with new challenges that come with a new stage in life. We look forward to the future, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we are content with the present. Older couples will often state how fast the time has gone! Parents will look back on the years that flew by and always seem to ask the question, “Where did the time go?” Every hour was sixty seconds, every day was twenty four hours, and every year was a full three hundred and sixty five days. Our bodies run down, our hair turns gray, and our problems don’t end– they just differ from chapter to chapter. We are all living a vapor of a life, then off to eternity! When the dust settles over our caskets, when friends and family leave the cemetery, when they move on with their lives, what is left behind is our legacy and the impact we made. If life is a vapor and eternity is endless, our focus should be on the latter.

Endurance In Life 

Wilbur Wright was playing ice hockey as a young man when one of the players struck him in the mouth with his hockey stick. Wilbur Wright, who was known for being outgoing and articulate, had plans to teach at Yale college. The complications with his injury made him give up that dream and go into a depression. The man that gave him the injury was known as the neighborhood bully, and it is speculated that he did this to Wilbur on purpose. That bully later on became addicted to cocaine and eventually he was discovered to be a mass murderer. He killed sixteen people after reading the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde because he related to Mr. Hyde. Wilbur, despite an unfair and unplanned accident, went on to invent the first motorized airplane and change the world forever. Bad things happen to good people, but we have a choice on how we respond and what we chose to do next.

The Last Blink 

God created the world in 6 days. 144 hours. 8,640 minutes. 518,400 seconds. But He’ll come back and end it all in the blink of an eye. Just like that time is gone and everybody is sent into eternity. Though it’s a figure of speech, the average human can blink in 3/10ths of a second. God made “the blink” that quick so you could close your eye quickly enough to protect it from debris, bright bright light, and to illustrate for us the way He’ll return.

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Wilbur Wright (right)

Categories
future life purpose Uncategorized

A Lonely, Lonely Man

Neal Pollard

My sons and I often say that we don’t really want to know much about our favorite singers. It seems that there’s always immorality and stories of their ungodliness. That’s as true of many of the rock, country, and easy listening singers from decades ago as those making music today. Despite my having grown up in the south, today I was able to do something I’ve never gotten the opportunity to do. Kathy and I toured Graceland with our gracious hosts, Barry and Celicia Grider. We enjoyed ourselves. This tour tended to glamorize and sanitize his life and career. Elvis Presley enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom, and he was a global icon. He made more money than he could spend, though his lavish collections of furniture, cars, instruments, clothes, and the like shows that he tried. Despite his love of gospel music and religious roots, there were the affairs, drugs, and fast living that likely contributed to his premature death at age 42. His daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, who remembers him reading often, “He had stacks next to his bed. He read all the time…Always of a spiritual nature. Always looking. Always searching for something” (from a placard in the mansion). Gospel preacher, C.W. Bradley, preached his funeral thanks to the connection of Elvis’ stepmother. But there is no evidence that his search led him to obey and live the truth, and there’s evidence to the contrary.  He once sang a song where he said, “It’s a lonely man who wanders all around, It’s a lonely man who roams from town to town.  Searching, always searching

for something he can’t find, hoping, always hoping that someday fate will be kind.”

Billions never achieve the fame or wealth of Elvis, but live their lives on a similar quest. They live, always searching for something they can’t find. Solomon spends so much time, with access to wisdom, wealth, wine, and women. He found, in his grand experiment, that these did not fill the void. Instead, the answer was to “fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecc. 12:13). This beautiful hope is shared by Jesus in the greatest sermon ever preached. He teaches, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Mat. 7:7-8).  These things are written to keep mankind from duplicating the future search for purpose and meaning. It has been revealed. Let’s look in the only place where loneliness is vanquished—in the presence of God!

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Categories
life purpose Uncategorized

Why We Are Here

Neal Pollard

It’s so easy to lose sight of our purpose. Even as Christians, our identity can become the things that are associated with this earth and this life. We can move along the road of life, unmindful of why we’re hear and what we’re to be doing with our time. Since at least my college days, I have asked God, “Help me make the most of my opportunities to Your glory.” He has opened doors I did not even know existed. These have not happened because of who I am, but all of it has happened because of who He is. That doesn’t mean that any of us can sit back passively until God makes things happen, but it is an exciting thing to try and order your life in such a way that He can use you for His purposes in the brief time we have on this earth.

The longer we live, the more we see our utter dependency upon Him and understand that “it is God who causes growth” (Col. 2:19; 1 Cor. 3:6-7). The Bible is His Word revealing His will, and we serve at His pleasure for His glory (Phil. 2:13). We can never forget that as long as we live in this life. None of us is indispensable and irreplaceable. Yet, for the brief period of time we’re here, we are a tool in God’s hand (cf. Rom. 6:12-13). We should work hard and prepare ourselves for service, but it’s exciting to watch God open doors and make things happen!

Life has its difficult moments, dark days, trials, temptations, and disappointments. But no life can compare to the Christian life. With all the temptation to be distracted by issues that will ultimately not matter to the dead and those in eternity, let us reflect daily on why God has us here.

If you would make for self a name, to seek for glory or for fame,
At life’s quick end, you’ll know the shame of serving self, not God.

If you make pleasing men your aim, and fawn and fumble for their acclaim,
When life is done, an empty same, of serving self, not God.

But if for Him you will proclaim, and let His glory be your flame,
At life’s great end He will exclaim, “Come home, O servant of God!”

—NP

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Categories
Dave Stewart life success Uncategorized

“3-2, With The Bases Loaded”

Neal Pollard

Dave Stewart, former Oakland A’s pitcher known for pitching well in the big games, was asked how he was able to shine when the spotlight was brightest. He explained that as children he and his brother would play against each other in the backyard. They would pretend they were in the “big game,” and it was always “3-2, with the bases loaded.” So, Dave would face the situation as if it were always the big game. He conditioned himself to confront the pressure situations, and through this he came to excel in the playoffs and World Series.

How do we excel in life? It is not by expecting and waiting for smooth sailing and an easy life. You do not grow in life when the sun is shining and there is zero wind resistance. Why not embrace challenges as catapults for personal growth? Look adversity in the eye and take it on.

The first-century church was in a situation where they faced opposition on an ongoing basis. They probably did not welcome this, but neither did they cower before it. In the face of fiery trials, they won the lost and kept the faith. In our own personal lives, we may dislike the thought of suffering. However, looking back, we may find these as the times where most growth occurred.

How do we face life? Are we looking for a beautiful, problem-free life? If so, we will be disappointed! More than that, we shall fail. We must through much tribulation enter the kingdom of God! Former Minnesota Vikings head football coach Dennis Green once told his team, “We are going to go on in the road, in the cold, in a hostile environment, and we don’t want it any other way.” That’s the philosophy to embrace in our spiritual lives. The world opposes us as we stand faithfully for Christ. That’s OK! It is a chance to excel to the glory of God.

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Categories
eternal life life purity Uncategorized

Wells And Cisterns

Neal Pollard

In 1980, my family moved to the thriving metropolis of Glenn, Georgia. Dad brought in a Jim Walters Home on the property that already held a barn, smokehouse, and considerable spring. However, it proved difficult to bore a well there because of the rock that stood between the surface and the water table. I’m sure that was one of the more trying experiences my parents ever had in their decades of home-owning. Because we could not access fresh water, my siblings and I had to make regular trips up to the neighbor’s house for drinking water (I say up because the driveway was a long, steady incline to the highway, and our neighbor, the Buckners, had their house just off the highway to our north).

We rarely think about the blessing we enjoy in this nation simply to turn on a faucet and have safe drinking water on demand. Many places I have visited around the world do not enjoy that same extravagance, but must at times travel a great distance to get water from a well. Others must risk drinking water contaminated with bacteria, parasites, and viruses that cause typhoid fever, cholera, Hepatitis A, giardia, and similar, deadly pathogens.

It is not surprising that God uses a substance so basic to our existence to illustrate great spiritual truths. It’s not just the water itself that is presented figuratively, but the source and reservoir of it. The well is the source, while the cistern is the container of water. As followers of Christ, we draw from a divine source but it is contained within us. If we’re not putting it in, we will not keep it or have it to use. The Bible tells us that:

—Wells May Need Dug Again (Gen. 26:18). In Isaac’s day, that was literal. Today, that may mean reviewing the basics even if we feel like people should already know them (2 Pet. 1:12; 3:1).

—Cisterns Need To Be Clean (Lev. 11:36). That was true physically, and it needs to be true of our hearts today. How well can we keep divine water in a dirty pool?

—One Must Draw From His Own Cistern And Well (Prov. 5:15). Solomon uses the cistern figuratively to speak of the imperative nature of faithfulness in the marriage relationship. Be satisfied with your spouse alone.

—One May Foolishly Decide To Draw From Broken Cisterns (Jer. 2:13). Jeremiah speaks of how Judah rejected God for the thinking of men. It was doomed to failure then, just as it is today.

—We Must Drink From The Well Springing Up To Eternal Life (John 4:14). Jesus uses physical water to speak of eternal life. We cannot go to a source other than Him and hope to receive it.

Water is an essential part of us and a necessity to maintain us. That’s true spiritually, too. Are we going to the right source? Are we a good reservoir for that living water? When we lived in Virginia, we had a well. We were told to pour a little Clorox into it on occasion to keep it from contamination. However helpful that is to drinking water, it is vital that we let the water of life serve us in its pure and unadulterated form. Then, let us share that with the people around us dying of spiritual thirst.

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Categories
daily living legacy life purpose Uncategorized

What Are You Living For?

Neal Pollard

A man had the good fortune and insight to take a chance with a credit card company in the Baltimore area several decades ago. He retired a wealthy, high ranking executive. In the course of his career, he put together a streak so impressive–35 years in which he never missed a day of work–that “Iron Man” Cal Ripken, Jr., wrote him a letter commending him for it. When he retired, the company gave him a classic car as well as many other lavish gifts. He had a great many benefits and perks, the admiration of peers and competitors, resort townhouses, and considerable wealth. But, one day very soon after he retired his life was dramatically changed after a visit to the doctor. He had an aggressive form of cancer. A few months later he was dead.

This is not a commentary on the morality or priorities of the man. I know nothing about either. His story points out that his well-laid plans and successful career could not forestall the inevitable end result common to every man.

It should also provoke a question. What are we living for? Is our identity tied to our career? Do we want to be known as the life of the party? Is it all about travel and adventure? Does life revolve around going to the river, campground, fishing hole, beach, or mountains? Is it sports, shopping, spending, or spirituality? Of necessity, all of us have a central focus. It is the thing that forms the bull’s eye we repeatedly find ourselves aiming at. Too many times, some thing becomes the thing in “first place” over Christianity. Colossians 1:18 reminds us Christ must come to have first place. When it comes to our jobs, Jesus must take first place. When it comes to our recreation, same thing. When it comes to relationships, He deserves primary position. Whatever we say or do, Jesus must be at the forefront.

He warns that we may invest in the wrong kind of treasure rather than the true riches (Mat. 6:19-21). He admonishes us to seek the kingdom first over “things” (Mat. 6:33). He warns against choosing family members over Himself (Mat. 10:37).

When life draws to a close, one will be confronted by the reality of what he or she made first place. Certainly, when we cross the sea of time to eternity, there will be no denying, rationalizing, debating, or arguing what our “bull’s eye” was. But, in our heart of hearts, don’t we all know what’s most important to us right now? It’s what occupies the greatest amount of our interest, time, energy, emotion, and effort. It is what we live for. When we die, will what we live for help us live eternally or be the cause of eternal death (cf. Rev. 21:8)? Let’s hear Paul’s encouragement to “set your affection on things above and not on things of the earth” (Col. 3:2).

Spofforth Church Grounds

Categories
God guidance life omnipotence providence

THE MORE I KNOW, THE LESS I KNOW

Neal Pollard

It is a true paradox. Today,  I’ve been married longer than I have ever been.  I’ve been a father longer than I have ever been.  The same is true for me as a Christian, a preacher, and every other relationship I am in.  My experience in all of these has never been greater than it is right now.  Yet, as I examine things, I realize just how much I do not know.  I am not saying that truth is unknowable, for such a statement would be false and contradictory to what God affirms in Scripture (John 8:32; Eph. 1:18; 1 Tim. 3:15; etc.).  It is just that I realize how little I understand compared to what needs to be understood, that I find the challenge of putting truth into practice in every situation requiring wisdom and understanding as daunting as I ever have.  Yet, despite such a realization, my optimism has never been greater.  Why?  Because I have never believed more strongly in the power and wisdom of God, nor have I ever depended more on Him for strength and provision where I am lacking than I do today.  I feel smaller, but He seems bigger.  While the walk on the narrow way seems a steeper, more strenuous, incline each day and the challenges to faith more daunting, more than proportionate to this is my realization that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Eph. 3:20). My conviction about what the Bible says has never been stronger. My belief in God’s existence, involvement, concern, and righteousness has never been more than this moment.  Yet, my awareness of my finiteness and limitations, the transiency of this life, and the ferocity of the adversary is acute.  Incredibly, this doesn’t cause me to despair. It causes me to hope. It takes the focus off me and puts it where it belongs—on Him! He is able to establish me through His Word (Rom. 16:25). He is “able to make all grace abound to” me, that I, “having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:8).  The most important thing for me to know, every day in every challenge and responsibility, is that God is able (Rom. 14:4; Phil. 3:21; 2 Tim. 1:12; Heb. 2:18).

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not despairing. I am not even frustrated. I am hopeful and excited.  One of the greatest promises of Scripture is, “But He gives more grace” (Jas. 4:6). He will walk with me through the darkest valleys (Psa. 23:4). As He holds my hand and guides me through His word and His providence, He also points me toward His house.  He tells me He will help me get home and when the narrow way becomes too steep or arduous for me to walk alone, He will carry me in His everlasting arms (cf. Deu. 32:7). I will keep studying His inspired guidebook and striving to apply it to my life.  And as I do, I will increase my dependence and reliance upon Him, confident that “He who has begun a good work in [me] will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6).  That’s really all I need to know!

Categories
Christ Judgment life

Be Sure Of The Foundation

Neal Pollard

In 2008, I traveled to Bangladesh and spent an unscheduled night in the Capitol city of Dhaka. It’s likely that I passed the eight-story tall Rana Plaza building on that trip, given its proximity to my hotel.  I certainly saw many like it.  But on April 28, 2013, during morning rush hour in one of the most densely populated countries of the world, Rana Plaza collapsed and killed well over 1000 people. It was the deadliest garment factory accident in history.  Why it happened is an outrage. It was built on swampy ground. Extra stories were constructed without proper authorization.  Costs were cut everywhere they could be. Because of this, a huge number of people paid the ultimate price.

Did you know there were warnings? Cracks appeared in the walls the day before and the building was evacuated. But five garment factory owners who had space in the building ordered their employees to go back inside Rana Plaza on that fateful day.  This fact caused global outrage, spawned boycotts and led to calls for international sanctions. It was rightly considered unacceptable and inhumane for such conditions to continue to exist.

There is an infinitely greater problem invisible to the naked eye.  Billions of people are building their lives upon a foundation guaranteed to fail.  They have either never come to Jesus, or even more tragically they have heard Him and ignored His appeals and warnings for safety.

In Luke six, the point of Jesus asking, “Why call Me Lord, then do not do what I say?” is to teach that we must build our lives on the foundation of Him.  In Jesus’ illustration there, the first builder is well protected. He has dug deep and laid his house on the bedrock foundation.  The second builder has no protection.  Incredibly, he builds on the ground with no foundation at all.  In 1 Corinthians 3:11, Paul says there is no other foundation to build your life on than Christ. In that context, Paul warns against building on other foundations—the foundations of men.  Our lives must be built on the bedrock foundation of Christ.  The very foundation of the church (cf. Mat. 16:18) is the one we must each choose for our lives.  “Storms” are coming, including the ultimate storm at the end.  On that day, it will matter how you built.