What Does Our Face Say About Us?

What Does Our Face Say About Us?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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

Your heart is only a little bigger than your fist and it weighs a mere 7-15 ounces. Despite it’s small size, on the inside you’ll find a massive stadium. There are battles that take place in this stadium on a daily basis. In the movies the good guy will always win, but in this arena? It will depend on who or what is the strongest. 

The Bible gives us several vivid descriptions of what goes on inside the heart, so let’s explore that. 

How can we know what’s going inside your heart today? 

A cheerful disposition can be the sign of a healthy heart according to Proverbs 15:13. This tells us that our outward appearance can give away our interior. 

Check out this section of scripture to see that in action. 

“On Abel God looked with favor, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favor. God said to Cain why are you angry why has your countenance fallen? If you do right will you not be accepted? But if you do that which is not right, sin is crouching at the door” 

Gen. 4.5-6

God already knew what was in Cain’s heart but notice how He explains to Cain that his body language had given away his inward struggles. 

Cain is livid and his countenance had fallen. In the following verses Cain ends up killing his own brother because that darkness had taken over. 

While we can assume what somebody might be dealing with by observing their countenance, we can’t be absolutely sure. Some people are great at masking their inward selves but God isn’t fooled by our camouflage. 

Here are two prime examples of that truth. 

In 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam takes the throne and is now leader over the Northern tribes of Israel. In the Southern kingdom, they had the capital of Jerusalem where all the Israelites in that region would gather to sacrifice to the Lord. 

The Bible indicates to us the very plans that Jeroboam said in the “privacy” of his heart. He built his own place of worship and foolishly placed those golden calves up for his new kingdom to worship.

In Luke 16.15, Jesus will prove once again that He’s the son of God by listening in on the secret conversations of that take place in the heart. 

May we never forget that we serve a God who has a perfect and intimate knowledge of us. There might be things hidden within us that nobody on earth knows about, but it’s not hidden in heaven. To deny the fact that God can see through you is to deny the fact that we are all humans created in His image. Who is the champion of your heart today? 

Considering Our Legacy

Considering Our Legacy

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

Have you ever heard of a necropolis? It means a “city of the dead.” We are most likely familiar with the necropolises left by the ancient Egyptians, but they exist among other cultures as well. For example, there is a necropolis near Dargavs, Russia. They say that if you look inside the windows of the “houses” in this city, you can see the inhabitants with their possessions. Unlike Egypt, Russia’s necropolis, which I’ve referenced were for the commoner. There are about 10,000 “residents” of this necropolis. Such monuments to the dead fascinate me. Why do men build such monuments and, indeed, cities for the dead? 

I think the word that most often comes to mind is legacy. People want to leave a legacy, the proof of their existence. Legacy derives from the Latin “legate.” A legate was a post in the Roman army. The Roman Senate tasked a general with a particular task which the soldier faithfully performed. It is not difficult to see how the word evolved likewise to indicate a messenger or diplomat. By the middle ages, a legate became someone executing another’s will. Thus, as we think of our legacy, we are referring to that which outlives us. It is something testifying about our life. It serves to impart a message or gift to the future. 

The Hebrews’ writer says Abel left such a legacy. “By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying about his gifts, and through faith, though he is dead, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11.4 ). The remarkable thing about Abel’s legacy is that God serves as his Legate. Thus, God provides this testimony about the departed Abel. Hence, one cannot doubt the truthfulness of the testimony. That, friends, is better than any pyramid or endowment. 

Men often praise those unworthy of such following their demise because they held power or prestige. Plus, their efforts to honor the deceased eventually come to naught. Again, I am mindful of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem, Ozymandias. A traveler tells of a monument upon which he happened. The monument’s inscription suggests the visitor look upon his works and despair. But there was nothing but a desert waste as far as the traveler could see. Even so, the fictional Ozymandias was so proud. He was confident in his legacy, which decayed with time. 

As we contemplate our legacy, we may think of progeny to carry our DNA into the future. God even says that children are a reward (Psalm 127.3). But we are powerless to change the people our offspring become in adulthood. Yes, we trust Solomon’s proverb about a trained child not departing from the way (Proverbs 22.6). But we know this is not universal. Therefore, future generations may soil one’s genetic legacy by their conduct. This phenomenon was undoubtedly the case with the few righteous kings of Judah, whose sons often did evil in worshipping foreign gods. 

No, the only suitable legacy is one whose Legate is God. Like Abel, we need to ensure that our deeds please Him to Whom we must give account. Our righteousness is like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64.6 KJV). But when we are faithful, like the man with five talents, we will be welcomed into the joys of our Master (Matthew 25.20-21). It may be that when I “shuffle off this mortal coil,” none but my family and close friends will note my passing. If I have the testimony of God, though, I will have something far greater than any monument people may leave for me. So, strive not for earthly accolades or a fleshly heritage. Instead, work to ensure that God provides your eternal legacy.  

Heart Attacks

Heart Attacks

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

dale and janelle

Dale Pollard

In many cases the battles that wage inside of us are never seen by others. The Bible, however, gives us a few clues as to what might be going on inside our hearts. 

A cheerful disposition can be the sign of a healthy heart according to Proverbs 15:13. Sometimes our appearance can show the darkness that has crept in. 

Consider the following verses, 

“And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering,  but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.  The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?” (Gen. 4.5-6). 

God already knew what was in Cain’s heart, but notice how He tells Cain the outward signs of his inward struggles. 

He’s angry and his countenance had fallen. In the following verses Cain ends up killing his own brother because that darkness had taken over. 

God knows the heart. He knows every aspect of the heart. 

In 1 Kings 12, Jeroboam has just become king over the Northern tribe of Israel. In the Southern kingdom they had the capital of Jerusalem where all the Israelites in that region would gather to sacrifice to the Lord. The Bible indicates to us the very plans that Jeroboam said in the “privacy” of his heart. He built his own place of worship and foolishly stood those golden calves up for his new kingdom to worship.

Jesus proves once again that He’s the son of God by reading the hearts of many individuals in the New Testament (Luke 16:15). 

May we never forget that we serve a God who can read our hearts. There are things we can hide from every human on earth, but certainly not God. Let’s also never forget that we don’t have the ability to read hearts and attempting to do so is to pretend to be something other than human. 

Do You Want A Better Life?

Do You Want A Better Life?

Neal Pollard

Who would answer “no” to that question? Who wants a worse life or a life that never gets better? But the better question is, “How do you get a better life?” Advertisers have so many answers to that, involving their currency or investment tool, their pill, diet, or workout routine, their travel agency or vacation destination, or product for your home, transportation, business, and the like. So many put so much into these promising plans, but still find their life wanting.

In religious matters, there is no room for subjective thought when it comes to what it takes to have a better life. We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. They point to their numeric size, number of programs they have, or how socially active they are. Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, not boasting of our achievements or comparing ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12). Genesis 4:1-16 points us to the first recorded version where more than one kind of worship was offered to God and how God rated them. But this chapter also paints a picture of two ways of living life.

Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses writes about him in this chapter. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls his works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 John 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). It seems that Genesis four shows us the better ingredients for a better way of living today.

  • Better living isn’t determined by age (1-2). Cain was the firstborn, a place of honor and privilege especially throughout the Old Testament.  But under the New Covenent, there is no spiritual advantage because of birth order. It is not a matter of firstborn, but a matter of being born again (John 3:1-7). Growing older should mean growing wiser, but reaching a milestone on a calendar does not equate to better living.
  • Better living isn’t determined by occupation (2).  Growing up, we might be tempted to see our occupation as the gateway to happiness and satisfaction, financial freedom and security, independence, and privilege.  When we look at Cain and Abel, what they did for a living wasn’t the determiner of the quality of their lives. Some occupations can stand in the way of better living, whether the nature of the job or the quality of the people one works with. Some can let their jobs stand between them and their relationship with God and His church. But, one can do right in unfavorable work circumstances, staying faithful to God.
  • Better living is determined by worship (3-4). That statement may be offensive to our multicultural world that says there are no absolute rights or wrongs. Contrast our culture’s thinking on this matter with what we read in Genesis four. Both Cain and Abel brought an offering to the Lord. God responded to both offerings, but He accepted one while rejecting the other. While many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal, we learn here that not all worship is equal. God “had regard for” Abel’s, but not for Cain’s. It does not say if Cain was sincere. It doesn’t seem to matter. We learn here that the worshipper and the worship offered rise and fall together. God regarded Abel and his offering, but rejected Cain and his offering. Can one offer God vain worship, and have God reject it but accept him? Apparently not.
  • Better living is determined by attitude (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God. He was very angry. His insides burned! His countenance fell. He took on an ugly look. We’re not told how old he was, but it almost sounds like a temper tantrum. Whether home training, lack of discipline, poor stress management, pride, jealousy, or anything else leads us to lose our tempers, all of them are matters only we can control. When we don’t control them, we’re responsible! Ill-tempered people are not living the better life! A positive life doesn’t require prospering, education, or earthly success. But you can’t have a positive attitude without mastering self.
  • Better living is determined by action (8-16). The word “sin” is first used in Genesis 4:7, but God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain was going to do to his brother (cf. 1 John 3:11-15). Bible writers speak of his deeds, offering, and way. These are all action words. After his sin, he is rebuked and punished by God and separated from God. Sin will not deliver what it promises. All actions have consequences (Gal. 6:7-9).

Someone said, “The line of Cain gives us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers, and poetry, but not one who walked with God.  In fact, Cain’s legacy led to a repeat of his violent ways by a descendant (cf. 4:23). Abel leaves no physical lineage, but he leaves a great spiritual heritage (Heb. 11:4). We each get to choose what kind of life we’ll pursue. It matters which way we decide.

cain-and-abel

Better Living 

Better Living 

Neal Pollard

We find ourselves often bobbing in a sea of religious confusion. Many groups claim to be the best religion and point to their ingredients as reasons for such claims. Several years ago, our boys played basketball in a league hosted by a huge community church in the Denver area.  Their church’s campus includes a K-12 school, two restaurants, a gymnasium half the size of our church building, a coffee shop, and a hundred social program. Other groups would make their claim as “better” or “best” based on their numeric size, the number of programs they have, or how socially active they are.

Our religious attitude ought to be one of humility, which does not boast of our achievements or compare ourselves with others (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12).  Genesis 4 is not just about two kinds of worship, but also about two ways of living life. Cain is mentioned by three Bible writers after Moses introduces him in Genesis. The writer of Hebrews calls Abel’s offering more excellent than his (Heb. 11:4). John calls Cain’s works evil and his allegiance “of the wicked one” (1 Jo. 3:12). Jude implies that the way of Cain is the wrong way to go (11). Let’s make a few brief observations from Genesis four and see if we can find the elements which make for a better way of living today.

  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY AGE (1-2).  By birth order, Cain came first. He was the first person to be born in the natural order of childbirth. He was the very first newborn to be held in his mama’s arms. She didn’t realize that her cooing, sweet infant was a future murdering, and she was proud of him. She called him “a man child with the help of the Lord.” This depicts such a bright, optimistic future, and by contrast Scripture says, “Again, she gave birth to his brother, Abel” (2). Abel began in his brother’s shadow, first known to us as “his (Cain’s) brother.”
  • BETTER LIVING IS NOT DETERMINED BY OCCUPATION (2). When we look at these brothers, what they did for a living was not the determiner of the quality of their lives. While what they did had an indirect bearing on the events of this account, the fact of their occupation was spiritually neutral—Cain farmed and Abel tended sheep. One can reap blessings from tilling the ground (Heb. 6:7), but they may have to fight thorns, thistles, and weeds doing it (Gen. 3:18-19). Tending sheep may be done by slaves (Luke 17:17), kings (1 Sam. 17:34), or apostles (John 21:17). God’s pleasure or displeasure was not connected to either’s occupation.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY WORSHIP (3-4). Moses says both brought an offering to the Lord. He also says God responded to bother offerings, accepting one and rejecting the other. That very notion is foreign to many people in our society today, even those in religion. Many make worship nothing more than taste, preference, and personal inclination. But, Moses shows us (1) Not all worship is equal: God had regard for Abel’s, but not Cain’s. The words “had respect to” signify in Hebrew to look at something with a very serious glance. God tells us how He wants worship done, in attitude and action; (2) The worshipper and the worship rise and fall together: God had regard for Abel AND his offering and did not for Cain AND his offering. That’s a sober reminder for me that my personal relationship with God is hindered or helped based on the way I worship God. Can I offer God vain and ignorant worship, and have God reject it but accept me? We are not earning God’s favor by getting worship right. At the same time, are we tempting God and hoping we stay in His favor while disobeying His commands for worship? People have tried to make this an “either-or” proposition, that Cain and Abel’s offering was either about getting the worship right or was about the nature of the person offering the worship. In other words, is it sincerity or obedience, our both sincerity and obedience? To thoughtfully ask the question is to answer it!
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ATTITUDE (5-7). Cain reacts to having himself and his worship rejected by God by burning with anger and his face taking on an ugly look. He sounds like a small child in the throes of a tantrum or a teenager huffing and sulking in anger. God warns Cain of the recipe for disaster he was making through his attitude. He told Cain that his tempestuous attitude was an invitation for sin to pounce on him, but He told him he could master it! You can have a positive attitude without prosperity, education, or earthly success, but you cannot have a positive attitude without mastering self.
  • BETTER LIVING IS DETERMINED BY ACTION (8-16). Improper worship and attitude preceded and precipitated improper action. The first time “sin” is used (Gen. 4:7), God was looking ahead with perfect foresight to what Cain would do to his brother. He does the unthinkable, killing his own brother (cf. 1 Jo. 3:11-15). His deeds and ways were a recipe for disaster: He is rebuked by God, punished by God, and separated from God. Sin promises a good time and fulfillment, but it’s not true.

It’s been said that the lineage of Cain gave us murder, cities, polygamy, musicians, metal workers and poetry, but not one who walked with God! Thanks to his legacy, a descendant repeats his violent ways (Gen. 4:23). Abel seems to leave no physical lineage, but he still speaks after death. His was a life of faith, generosity, good works, righteousness, and obedience. We get to choose the kind of life we want to pursue. If we choose well, we will be satisfied, others will be blessed, and God will be pleased.

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