There Are No Small Tasks…

There Are No Small Tasks…

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The 19th-century Russian actor, Konstantin Stanislavski, famously said, “There are no small roles, only small actors.” The point is that we should do our very best no matter what our role is. Especially is that true in serving God. 

  • Who carried the lame man to the gate where he was healed by James and John (Acts 3:2)? 
  • What were the names of the four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus (Mark 2:3)? 
  • Are we told who the young men were who carried out Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:6,10)? 
  • Do we know who brought Paul to Athens and followed his command for Silas and Timothy to come to him there (Acts 17:14-15)? 
  • What were the names of those in the household of Stephanas who, like him, devoted themselves for ministry to the saints (1 Cor. 16:15)?  
  • The New Testament is full of statements about individuals whose households were baptized along with them: Cornelius (Acts 11:14), Lydia (Acts 16:15), the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:33), Crispus (Acts 18:8), Aristobulus (Rom. 16:10), Narcissus (Rom. 16:11), and Onesiphorus (2 Tim. 4:19). What contributions did they make to the congregations where they were members? How many will be in heaven because of these unnamed saints? 

We may wonder what great works we might do to carve a spiritual legacy, whether in the local church or even beyond. Perhaps we feel that we toil in anonymity, unappreciated or overlooked. How many acts of service, kindness, generosity, and sacrifice never make the church bulletin or announcements? Let us take great comfort in the knowledge that God knows. He’s even writing it down (Rev. 20:12,15). As the writer of Hebrews told some unnamed saints, “God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints” (Heb. 6:10). 

Never forget the encouraging poem of William Dunkerley. 

Is your place a small place? 
Tend it with care!
He set you there.

Is your place a large place?
Guard it with care!
He set you there.

Whatever your place, it is
Not yours alone, but His
Who set you there. 

You are touching lives who may not think to tell you that you are. Your influence and example may be the difference in someone overcoming who might have been overcome. Your simple word or deed of kindness may be the fuel for another’s faith. Paul’s encouragement is weighty, when he says, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10). How insignificant is the lowliest private in the Lord’s Army, adorning His armor (Eph. 6:11)? There are no small tasks in His kingdom! Let us be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that [our] toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58)! 

Do You Have Three Pennies?

Do You Have Three Pennies?

Neal Pollard

Ravi Gandhi, the CFO of United Auto Credit Corporation, carries on an interesting routine every morning. When he gets to his desk at work, he puts three pennies on the left side of his computer. They are reminders for him to look for people to encourage, thank, and recognize. If he gets up from his desk, he puts the pennies in his left pocket. Each time he succeeds in blessing someone in these ways, he moves the penny from the left to the right side. Keeping up with the “three penny practice” reminds him that we live in a world filled with people deprived of encouragement, and it reminds him of what he can do to practically make a difference (Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge, 253-254).

Encouragement is an intentional rather than an accidental exercise. In other words, we have got to be looking for ways to do it. I am not sure that it comes naturally to everyone. I believe some have the gift of exhortation and encouragement (Rom. 12:8), but how many cannot be sure for lack of trying? It requires a certain amount of discipline and selflessness to look for people, often outside the spotlight, who are wearily struggling along life’s road.

The word translated “encourage” in the New Testament is, to me, one of the most beautiful words in the Bible. It literally carries the idea of coming alongside someone and putting your arm around them, “to ask to come and be present where the speaker is, call to one’s side” (BDAG, 764). Louw-Nida defines it as causing “someone to be encouraged or consoled, either by verbal or non-verbal means” (305).

Back to Mr. Gandhi’s mission, there are always people to encourage, thank, and recognize. What about the custodian, the office administrator, the intern, or the new hire? What about the person who delivers food? What about the introverted, hard worker who’s always prompt and dependable but apt to be “invisible”? There’s the lunchroom employees, the teacher’s aids, the bus drivers, teachers, administrators, and the security personnel at school.

This is a fantastic practice in our church life, too. Look for the new Christians, new members, those who are alone, the elderly, little kids, the socially awkward, the singles, the widows, and, of course, the visitors. Find a tangible way to express gratitude and recognition. Perhaps something like placing three pennies in your pocket or three rubber bands on the fingers of your left hand will keep this necessary work at the forefront of your mind.

Yes, the Scriptures command it: “Encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Th. 5:11), “encourage the fainthearted” (1 Th. 5:14), “encourage one another day after day” (Heb. 3:13), and “encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25). But, it may surprise us how rewarding and satisfying it is to bless people with some simple, sincere encouragement.

Do you have three pennies? Why not pocket them, then pursue people you can lift with a simple word of joyful cheer? Three such acts a day amounts to over a thousand acts of kindness a year. If we all did that, it would revolutionize our world! Three pennies might not buy much in the world, but they might change a life!

Hearing Protection

Hearing Protection

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Hearing is pretty important. One of the best things about the beach is the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. How many have lost a loved one and, more than anything, just want to hear their voice again? I’ve been told that the sound of birds in the early morning is very peaceful (I wouldn’t know from experience because mornings are for crazy people). We experience and enjoy so much of the world through hearing! 

We usually take precautions while doing something that could potentially damage our hearing. When using some kind of implement like a mower, chainsaw, tractor, leaf blower, etc., we might use hearing protection. If you like to go shooting, you’ll definitely use earplugs or a suppressor (if you don’t mind the paperwork) to mitigate some of the sound. If you work in an industrial environment, chances are you’ll spend most of the day with earplugs in. We take these precautions because we’d like to keep our hearing for as long as we can. 

There’s a lot of noise in our world right now. People are screaming out their political viewpoints and world-views. Hatred on both sides of the political aisle is being shared with as much volume as their respective constituents can muster. Media has given us information overload and we’re very aware of everything going wrong with the world. It’s no surprise to me that so many people in our time are experiencing daily, sometimes-crippling anxiety. The noise we’re experiencing is deafening. 

Our world needs a refresher course on hearing safety, so what follows is merely the essentials. 

First, unnecessary exposure to noise may cause irreparable damage. The greatest hazards are social and news media as they produce the most volume. Many of us are exposing ourselves to the negativity found in these platforms at dangerous levels. Cutting way back on our exposure to these sources of division, anxiety, violence, and hatred is sure to help us avoid damage. 

Second, it’s called “volume” for a reason: lots of voices are involved. We can do our part to prevent damage by simply not contributing to the decibel level. Imagine how much more peaceful our world would be if most people refrained from publicly sharing their opinions! By not contributing to the noise level, we can help ourselves and others stay spiritually and emotionally sound. 

Finally, use hearing protection! It may not be a bad idea to put away any conduits to information for a while. Spend some time with friends and family, spend some time in nature, spend some time being productive around the house, spend some time in a hobby, spend some time in the Word. 

If we follow these three things – avoiding or limiting exposure, not contributing to the noise level, and using hearing protection – we will find ourselves happier, healthier, more unified, stronger, more spiritual, and less anxious. For the next few weeks (months?), let’s use hearing protection and see if our outlook doesn’t improve drastically. 

Proverbs 1:5; 17:4

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So What?

So What?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Here’s a quick recap of the bizarre events that unfold in Acts 20:

 

  • Paul preaches past midnight.
  • A young man named Eutychus falls asleep.
  • As a result, he plummets to his death.
  • He is then miraculously brought back to life.

 

 

 

So what?

Each word that was written in Scripture was penned under God’s guidance— for our guidance. This means that even those accounts that might initially strike us as pointless are, in truth, spiritually-pointed.

With this is in mind, let’s briefly examine three life lessons from Eutychus that deliver relevant reminders for the 21st-century Christian.

  1. A lesson on Commonsense: God is with His people. God protects His people, but we still read of a young man who sits where he shouldn’t have. As a result, he tumbles to his death. Unfortunate things can happen to godly people, especially in the absence of commonsense.
  2. A Lesson On Commitment: This account is not a call for preachers to shorten their sermons, or even a warning for members who might be tempted to take a nap in worship. While Eutychus may not be the first guy that comes to mind when we think of a Bible character who demonstrated commitment— he still made it a priority to be with his Christian family. He held on, even though it was clearly past his bedtime. How many of us have stayed away from services simply because we don’t feel like it? How many Christians find themselves struggling to remain focused in a one hour period of worship? There is something to be said for this man’s commitment to Christ— even as the hours ticked by and exhaustion began to take its toll on him.
  3. A Lesson On Correction: Though I would not want to be immortalized in history as the guy who fell out of a window in church, this potential tragedy became a powerful testimony of God’s grace. God does not expect total perfection, but rather our constant correction. When we take a tumble spiritually, what corrections can we implement to avoid the same mistake in the future?

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“Schrodinger’s Spring”​

“Schrodinger’s Spring”​

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

This has been a beautiful spring. I cannot recall a time in recent memory when I’ve noted so many dogwood flowers in the trees. Our daffodils have been more prolific as well. There is phlox and violets blooming throughout the yard. Since I know that it is through nature that God first reveals Himself to us (cf. Romans 1.20), I could not help if wonder if what I have been seeing is providential. Think about it. We are in the midst of a pandemic and have been asked to shelter in place. What if God providentially boosted the fertility of the spring to grab the attention of all of the people stuck at home? It is a nice thought, isn’t it? Certainly, those who’ve inherited the earth (Matthew 5L5) would take notice of that.

Yet, the truth is, I cannot say this with any degree of certainty. My statement about this spring’s beauty is contingent on the amount of attention I have paid to it this year as well as the joy I’ve experienced having more time to spend outdoors since “normal” life has been shut down. The thought has occurred to me that maybe every spring is as beautiful, I’ve just been too busy or distracted to notice. Perhaps, there were plenty of equally beautiful things that had existed but went unobserved.

Maybe you’ve heard of “Schrodinger’s cat.” This is a thought experiment proposed by physicist Erwin Schrodinger, based on idea he had gotten from Albert Einstein. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice it to say, a poor kitty is imperiled by two deadly things inside a closed box. After an hour, you check to see if the cat has died. As crazy as it sounds, quantum mechanics allows for the cat to be both alive and dead until such time as one makes an observation; that is, until he or she opens the box. It is at the point of observation that the fate of the cat goes from superposition to a single state. If you find the thought experiment flawed, you’re not alone. Other physicists thought that it was ridiculous that a cat’s fate was contingent on whether or not we observed it. The radiation or the poisoned air would have killed the cat long before we opened the box. Another camp gave it a many-worlds interpretation. In other words, they say that upon opening the box, you as the observer become entangled with the cat on a quantum level and you both continue on in a reality in which the cat is either alive or dead. Since there are two possibilities, two worlds result in which the cat is alive and the cat is dead.

I apologize if I thoroughly confused you. Fortunately, it is not the wisdom of man that saves, but the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1.19-21). However, I referenced the thought experiment in order to frame my concept of a “Schrodinger’s spring.” God’s natural laws lead to a rebirth every year that He gives as we go from winter’s death to spring’s life. Because Christ sustains this creation (Colossians 1.15-17), we know that the promise God made with Noah will be kept (cf. Genesis 8.22). Hence, there will be “seedtime and harvest.” Yet, as I admitted about myself, there have likely been many years when I have failed to observe this unfolding process. There is a sense in which I allowed myself to be taken into a different world, one devoid of the joy God’s creation brings. We can do this when it comes to many different things besides nature, can’t we?

When I fail to note God’s providence and majesty, I create a world for myself that lacks contentment and joy. I don’t look to become satisfied with the state in which I am (cf. Philippians 4.11-13), but waste my life yearning for something else. We see the difference taking a moment to express gratitude made in the life of one former, Samaritan leper. Jesus had already cleansed his flesh, but extended forgiveness to him in response to the gratitude he had shown (Luke 17.18). A thankful heart is more predisposed to recognize the blessings of God, including the provisions made for our salvation. This is why, as with the cleansed Samaritan, it prompts worship. In what other way can we respond but with that desire to prostrate ourselves at His feet?

The next time you see the smiling face of the a child or a colorful sunset, remember “Schrodinger’s spring.” God has certainly surrounded you with blessings. It may be that in the hustle and bustle of life you simply haven’t had the time to notice. Make observations and change your reality as well.

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“Let Them Alone”

“Let Them Alone”

Neal Pollard

It is a commendable mixture of righteous indignation, conviction, and affection for the Lord and His church to want to answer all the critics, rebut all the troublemakers, defend all the reputations, and fight all the false teaching out there.  Knowing how best to deal with the pot-stirrers or the novel-doctrine-peddlers can cause quite the consternation.  Do we answer every allegation and oppose every little quibble?  Are there times where the best answer is to simply ignore “one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:19) or those who attempt to “preach any other gospel” (Gal. 1:9)?  That requires great wisdom and judgment as to the specific situations which arise, but it is clear that the Bible has given disciples the counsel to just let some things lie.

A NEGATIVE EXAMPLE: The Pharisees Of Matthew 15.  These religious leaders elevated human traditions (1-2,6,9), made their own rules they bound others to follow or else (3-6), had heart problems (7-9), and spoke defiling words (11).  They intimidated the disciples, who were concerned that Jesus offended the Pharisees (12). Jesus pointed ahead to the judgment that would determine the nature of their work (13), but counseled His followers to “let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (14).  So often, those who strive and divide, as well as those swayed by them, experience the fruit of their work in this life.  Others, unheeding of cautions and pleadings to the contrary, find out in the end (cf. 1 Tim. 5:24-25).  While the Pharisees ultimately nailed Jesus to the cross, His view of their divisive tactics was to simply “let them alone.”

A POSITIVE EXAMPLE: Peter And John In Acts 5.  Gamaliel, a respected teacher of the Law and member of the Sanhedrin Council, weighed in on the work of Peter and John, two faithful gospel preachers. He looked at past movements of those claiming to be someone, Theudas and Judas, and compared them to these followers of Christ. His advice, “stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God” (Acts 5:38b-40).  While we have no indication that Gamaliel’s advice is inspired, as Caiaphas did (John 11:49ff), it is hard to find fault with his logic.  In the case of the apostles in Acts five, their plan and action was of God. In the case of the other two “leaders,” it was of men.  Time typically tells.  Inspect the fruit.  Listen to the words.  Watch the attitudes.  Discern the actions demanded and urged. Examine it all in the light of carefully studied Scripture.

Apathy and indifference can lull us to sleep.  The antagonistic or the agents of unscriptural change can both serve to wake us up, get us to reexamine our stand, get into our Bibles, and work to ensure our message and our methods are “by the book.”  But do we have to accept every challenge and dare?  Jesus once drew in the dirt in the face of those who demanded an answer from Him.  There are some times when the best answer is silence.  As for those who make demands of us? Sometimes, we’re best to just “let them alone.”

Are You A Taker Or A Giver?

Are You A Taker Or A Giver?

Neal Pollard

  • Are you sure to take credit for works that are done or do you seek to give credit for them?
  • Are you more apt to take others’ time or to give your time to others?
  • Do you take joy from others or give it to them?
  • Are you quicker to take the attention or to give it?
  • Would others better know you as a taker of happiness or as a giver of it?
  • Is your reputation as one who takes others’ help or who gives yourself to help others?
  • Are you prone to take advantage of someone or give an advantage to someone?
  • As you take God’s blessings, do you give yourself as a blessing to others?
  • Would you be better known as a taker or giver of encouragement?

There are surely more contrasts along these lines, but consider this regarding them all. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).  Much of this is a matter of selfishness or unselfishness.  As unappealing as the prospect is, each of us does well to look closer at which we are.  We may grab a temporary spotlight, get a short-term advantage, or have the fleeting praise of men, even while taking, but the Lord’s view is different.  He says of takers, “They have their reward in full” (Mat. 6:2,5,16).  How much better to give (cf. Lk. 6:38)!