Learning About Worship From Children

Neal Pollard

Thom Vaught gave the “elders remarks” last night after the Young Lions participated in their annual program of Scripture reading, song leading, prayer, and preaching. The fourteen first through six graders obviously listened well and learned much. Thom noted how we look at the Christian life as a marathon, but these boys (and the seventeen God’s Precious Daughters who hosted a tea in the fellowship hall at 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon for 80 Christian women!) were actually the next leg in a relay race.  Everybody seemed to leave the assembly last night so spiritually full and energized. Perhaps that was because of what we had seen (and learned) throughout last evening’s service.

…That genuine enthusiasm is infectious.
…That worship should be characterized by purity.
…That you cannot easily fake sincerity.
…That sometimes truth gets told most poignantly and effectively from such an innocent heart.
…That it is encouraging to see someone overcome their fears to lead.
…That we appreciate seeing those who lead us unashamedly show us their hearts.
…That worship should be joyful.
…That we should carry the experience of worship out the door with us into our lives.

When Thom asked those present last night who had formerly been through Young Lions and God’s Precious Daughters to stand along with the 31 children involved this year, it was overwhelmingly encouraging to see so many scattered among our healthy crowd last night who had received this wonderful training. The leadership training they have received through the years has contributed to the teenagers and young adults they have become, serving Christ and others. Some of them are married now. Others have graduated from preacher training schools or are students there. Others have gone on to Christian Colleges. They lead us in every phase of our worship regularly and effectively. We appreciate the men and women who came up with this program and all those who have served through the years. All of us are the better for it. Last night was a reminder of something Trent Woolley, who helped lead this year’s program, said to us, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3).  I pray we will carry these lessons learned into worship with us next week and the weeks beyond that!

17191020_997645827047006_5867707409707217276_n

16939339_803329306482297_3212391089732137726_n

“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.

dave_stewart_on_august_1_2009

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.

one_of_the_16_rockcut_cisterns_at_pavurallakonda_bheemili

Identifying As A Christian

Neal Pollard

There are so many “identifying” stories these days. A white woman, Rachel Dolezal, identifying as a black woman, was back in the news over the weekend. A biological female who identifies as male and has taken testosterone, Mack Beggs, won the Texas girls wrestling title. In a recent interview, Dr. Keith Ablow suggested that such delusional (he is using the term in a psychological, not pejorative, sense) reasoning opens the door for a young person who “identifies” as a 65-year-old to receive Medicare benefits (foxnews.com). Really, every new case of “identifying” reveals the absurdity behind the thinking. All the wishing, wanting, and hoping in the world cannot change ironclad facts. As we used to say discussing reality of any kind growing up, “It is what it is.”

If there is anything more harmful than delusion, it may be denial. For centuries, good, sincere people have claimed to be Christians who have not followed what the New Testament reveals is necessary to become one. They have followed some humanly-devised plan or idea (accept Jesus in your heart by faith, say a prayer, believe the Holy Spirit gives you an experience of grace, etc.). Leaders and teachers who have devised such ideas do not do so from a sustainable, biblical source.  Repeatedly, whether in the gospels (Mark 16:16), the book of history (Acts 2:38; 22:16), or the epistles (Rom. 6:4; Gal. 3:27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21), we find a simple, but essential, act that stands between one not being and being a Christian. But the idea that one can fail to do this and still be a Christian is pervasively taught, believed, and practiced.

Akin to this is the belief that one can claim to be a Christian, then live any way they wish. Their speech, conduct, and attitude can exactly mirror and mimic the world’s. Their aspirations, pursuits, and values can be completely worldly. But, when death visits a loved one or comes to them or at some similar time when it would be advantageous to claim so, they aver that they are a Christian. While they may have followed God’s plan to become one, they think of themselves as saved and safe even while walking in darkness (cf. 1 John 1:6-9).

It takes more than a claim. Facts are stubborn things. The ultimate source of what is factual is God’s Word. It educates us about gender (Gen. 1:27) and race (Acts 17:26). It educates us about who a Christian is (Acts 2). It educates us about faithful Christian living (cf. Rom. 12:1-2). If we wish to be accurate in the way we “identify” ourselves, we must let Scripture inform our view!

rachel_dolezal_speaking_at_spokane_rally_may_2015

Before You Type Or Talk Today

 

Neal Pollard

A pick, a poke, a controversy,
Hit and run, a verbal grenade,
We may see it as clever, though without mercy
And own it like an accolade

But are we making people think
When what and how we say it scars?
If it causes a stir, a strife, a stink
Instead of edifying it maligns and mars?

People should be thinking anyway
And what they think should be of good report
Let’s meditate on what we say
Not load up on sarcastic, sardonic retort.

The world already knows that tactic
And uses it at the drop of scarf and hat
It brightens no story, dresses up no didactic
But stokes the fire and escalates the spat

Here’s something requiring greater skill
You won’t find it in general practice
Restraint and kindness, grace and good will
Be a rose in a field of cactus.

When entering today the public sphere
And the marketplace of varied ideas
Let the Jesus in you shine bright and clear
So they can look at you and believe He is!

imageedit_39_6587200324-compressed

Service With A Smile

Neal Pollard

Jesus showed the greatness of service by washing the disciples’ feet (John 13:12-17). As they fought over who was the greatest, Jesus revealed that He came to serve and not to be served (Mat. 20:25-28). God refers to Him in the great prophesy about His suffering as “My Servant” (Isa. 52:13; 53:11). Why, then, are we more apt to jockey for prominence, position, power, and prestige? Is it not that, in such times, we’ve lost our focus and stopped “looking unto Jesus” (cf. Heb. 12:2)? What are some practical ways we can reflect Jesus through service? Consider the following as a pump-primer:

  • Write a note of encouragement
  • Pleasantly let a merging driver merge in front of you
  • Fervently pray for the good of someone who has been hurtful to you
  • Meet a widow(er) for lunch or coffee
  • Volunteer to babysit so a young couple can go on a date
  • Anonymously send a small amount of money or gift card to a college student, preacher student, or missionary
  • Visit a shut-in
  • Participate in a feeding the homeless event
  • Tell an elder you love and appreciate him
  • Pay for the meal of a young family who looks like they could use the help
  • Ask a neighbor if there is something you can be praying about on their behalf (and, if they’re willing, pray for that on the spot)
  • Text or email someone you know is in a stressful circumstance and express confidence in them
  • Take a small group to go sing for someone confined to a hospital or nursing home
  • Volunteer to work with small children to make a craft or baked good for the elderly
  • Police the bathrooms and pews at church and tidy up little messes you see
  • Make visitors to our assemblies feel welcome and help them find a class or a seat (with a pleasant smile)

There may be profound ways we can serve, but realize that any act of service may be far more profound than we think. We may not know in this life how a simple act opens a heart and opens a door of opportunity for Christ. Think like a servant and seek ways to serve! The greater others think you are, the greater your need to serve. But however much or little you think of yourself, think of others. Then, serve them!

2159516316_763603c0c9_z

Jane Roe/Norma McCorvey

Neal Pollard

She was used by pro-abortion and pro-life groups, but in fairness nobody outdid Norma McCorvey at trying to use others for personal advantage. Her effort to abort her third child, in Texas in 1970, was the case used to go to the Supreme Court. By the time the appeals process wound up in legalizing abortion at the federal level, her baby was almost three years old and in the home of adoptive parents. She was the product of neglect and horrible abuse, was promiscuous, bisexual—though mostly lesbian, and was known to try to make her way by hook or crook for most of her life. She tried to leverage her infamy into financial advantage or at least a living wage.

It’s wonderful to see that this tormented woman publicly changed her position regarding the right and sanctity of the unborn, but her home life and adult life symbolize the growing immorality stemming from a breakdown in the home. A father fairly well abandoned his role in the home. Alcohol and drugs complicated and clouded the decisions and thinking within the home. Sexual immorality created multiple problems. Sin was perpetuated from poor examples there (The Washington Post, Emily Langer, 2/18/17).

Pew Research found that 46% of “U.S. kids younger than 18 years of age are living in a home with two married heterosexual parents in their first marriage. This is a marked change from 1960, when 73% of children fit this description, and 1980, when 61% did” (Gretchen Livingston, 12/22/14). This is only part of the story. I know of several scripturally divorced and remarried couples, with blended families, who have raised righteous, believing children. But, the general breakdown of the home is at the heart of so many of society’s woes.

The foregoing is far from revelatory. Sermons, articles, and Bible classes have trumpeted it for years. What I see in our broken society is endless opportunity. It will require patience, time, and lots of love, but homes like the one McCorvey grew up in and the one she attempted herself are craving what only Christ can supply—fulfillment, joy, peace, and direction. That is where you and I come in. Let us remember what we’ve been told by God: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Let’s be shining!

2211858253_9a8fa45364_b

Managing Stress & Anxiety

Stay Calm…and read this great article!

Life and Favor (Job 10:12)

I wish I could title this post, “Getting Rid of Stress & Anxiety,” but I don’t think that’s very realistic.  With the exception of perhaps childhood, each new phase in life presents its own unique set of challenges.  Perhaps you find yourself in one of the following situations:

  • New marriage, new baby, new home, new work.  While these are also exciting and wonderful, they also call for stamina and courage and wisdom.
  • Long-term care of an aging parent.  In addition to the physical exhaustion is the emotional turmoil of seeing your loved one suffer.
  • School/ work load.  I know some Bear Valley students right now who are being stretched in more ways than they ever expected.  Perhaps you’re in the midst of a project or job requirement that’s been going on for so long you can’t remember your last decent night of sleep.
  • Poor health.  After months or years of…

View original post 938 more words

The Tactics Of The Tactful

Neal Pollard

“To ensure people listen to you, insult their race, politics, and intelligence. Be sarcastic. Be close-minded. Don’t attempt to hear what they have to say. Do not gently reason and certainly do not be patient and thoughtful. Courtesy should be thrown to the wind, along with assuming the best and thinking before speaking. Inflammatory statements are sure to win the hearts of people on the fence or on the other side of the issue from you. When they disagree or offer a dissenting view, really let them have it. Call them names, make baseless assumptions and accusations, and angrily dismiss them. Persuade them with harsh, rude, coarse, crude words and phrases, and even resort to cursing to strengthen your point.”

I don’t suppose I’ve ever seen anyone give the advice above, but an incredibly large number of people seem to have adopted those very tactics through social media to promote their own points of view and to attack those of others. Beyond the right and wrong of specific issues, there is the attitude and demeanor the Christian is to maintain. The late Wendell Winkler would often tell us “preacher boys” that “you can be right and still be wrong.” How sad to lose the moral high ground of an issue because we yield to the fleshly tendency to rip, tear, and insult “the other side.”

Scripture counsels this approach instead: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other” (Eph. 4:32); “The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 2:24-25a); “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21); “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Col. 4:6); “A gentle answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

Oh, sure. People will rationalize their ugly, insulting speech through distorting the words and actions of Jesus, Paul, and others. People often rationalize their sin and disobedience. How many have done the same thing in the face of Scripture commanding baptism and teaching the singular nature of the church? But, make no mistake about it! Venomous, hateful, insulting speech is not the way of the faithful Christian.  The source of that is from a distinctly different direction!

Be convicted and courageous, but cloak it in Christlike kindness! In addition to being right, it will be far more successful. May our goal be to win hearts and souls and not just arguments!

636044778227119944-152056580_another20guy20yelling20at20his20computer

The Ever-Fixed Mark

Neal Pollard

This phrase is taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 to describe love. While it is an apt, poetic description of love, it also is the perfect modifier of God’s Word. If there is a word to describe the current culture, it is “change.” Our world is enamored with it, constantly changing its mind, its values, its standards of right and wrong, its worldview, and its priorities. Swept up in all of this are societal attitudes about so many things.

What was once right is now wrong. What was wrong is now right. And while not every instance of this is wrong, so many of them are the product of mankind pushing the envelope of previous norms and standards of decency. Let me cite some specific examples:

  • The definition of marriage
  • The definition of gender
  • Sexual mores
  • The sanctity and humanity of the unborn
  • The view of the inspiration and authority of Scripture
  • Male and female leadership roles
  • The move from monotheism to polytheism (one God to many Gods)
  • The existence of God and the deity of Jesus Christ
  • The ethics of honesty, hard work, and service

Our list could be much longer, but these representative items have all fallen victim to the world’s push for what it sees as greater freedom, satisfaction, and happiness. Those who rely on the Bible as their infallible guide already know how the story turns out for those who make themselves the standard. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). More solemnly, Solomon says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25). In Paul’s day, suppressing, speculative, sensual, and subverting souls rejected God in deference to self-guidance with destructive results (Rom. 1:18ff). Thus it will always be when man builds upon the foundation of himself.

What happens with us, individually and collectively, when we build upon the rock of Scripture is survival in the severest tests (Mat. 7:24-25). When we see Scripture as something to change us rather than something subject to our changes, we have a sure standard by which to chart our lives. Antecedent societies have experienced the trauma of spiritual self-determination (cf. Prov. 14:34). In a world enamored with unrighteous change, may we determine to fix our gaze on the ever-fixed mark of Scripture!

harrows_bristle_board_bullseye