Categories
attitude priorities speech

Surrounded by Orange Daylilies

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Driving along the highways of north Georgia and western North Carolina, there is one flower that stands out, the orange daylily. I look forward to seeing them every year. However, I recently discovered daylilies are not even native to North America. The daylily, which, despite its name, is not a lily, is a native of Asia. At some point, merchants traveling the silk road brought them back to Europe. Later, when Europeans settled in the “New World,” they brought the daylily bulbs with them. Yet, they have become so common here that among their colloquial names is the designation of “ditch lily,” since they have become a ubiquitous feature along highway shoulders and medians. Some do still plant them purposefully, but it is not necessary unless one wants them in a specific location. It is as if some unseen John Chapman, but of the daylily bulb, travels the rural countryside of Appalachia, planting these flowers. It can be bad enough in some locations for the pretty flower to be labeled as “invasive,” since it chokes out local flora.

I’ve already mentioned how I am partial to daylilies, but the world would be less exciting and beautiful if all I saw were the orange daylilies wherever I looked. I understand that other flowers are needed to complement and balance this resilient flower.  I need purple lupines, red roses, and yellow black-eyed Susans too. When it comes to the daily living of our lives, we need such variety also.  Frankly, the only constant should be the “the true bread out of heaven.” Otherwise, our lives will become as dull as a world of but orange daylilies.   Paul reminds us, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4.8 NASB). There is no doubt that the items on Paul’s “focus list” are related and flow from one another. Of a truth, we can describe God using each of those words. Even so, there remains variety, even in the ways we choose to look at God. Do I want to focus on His love? His grace? His justice? His mercy?

“Orange daylilies” surround us in our life’s journey. It is the “news junkie” regurgitating cable news talking points, especially when his or her interpretation of “facts” is different from our own. It is the brother or sister who always has something negative about which to talk, especially the injuries he or she perceives to have suffered. It is the enthusiastic fan who regales us with the latest news from his or her fandom. It is the brother or sister in Christ weaned on a pickle, unable to find joy in life. Again, we do appreciate the orange daylilies for their worth. They have their beauty.  But if we only surround ourselves with them, it chokes out the other “flowers” we want to bloom as well. Consider that also about yourself and your topics of conversation and demeanor when around others. Adopt the attitude of Christ and work to be someone’s red rose or purple lupine even on those days you only feel like being an orange daylily too.

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Categories
emotion mental health sadness

Lessons From Adversity: Finding Equilibrium

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Balance is that for which we hope and are vigilant to achieve. As true as this is for obedience (see 2 Kings 22.2), it is likewise needed emotionally. I’d like for us to note that optimum mental health in a fallen world is also a matter of equilibrium.

 

Let’s begin with the 800-pound gorilla in the room, the “gorilla” we call sadness. Why can’t we always be happy? It’s not that God did not intend for us to be happy. He created a world He described as “very good” (Genesis 1.31) and placed us into the idyllic Eden. Yet, in the exercise of our free will, we couldn’t abstain from eating the fruit of the one tree that was forbidden. Thus, when one is dealing with a broken world, sadness is going to come. We’ve even become so accustomed to its existence we create platitudes touting its presence. The Arab proverb states, “All sunshine makes a desert.” Even though sunshine is grand, weather consisting of only sunny days deviates from equilibrium bringing an environment hostile to life. Hence, it’s a bad thing. We’re left with the astounding proposition that for us to better appreciate the sunshine, we must learn to appreciate the rain.

 

In order to find emotional balance, one must avoid positive feedback loops. Yes, I realize this sounds counterproductive to our goal. Positive is a good thing, correct? Think of positive in this context as “plus.” It adds to. Do you want to read of a Biblical example of one caught in an emotional positive feedback loop? Read 1 Kings 18.20-19.21. Despite experiencing the glorious victory God brought over the prophets of Baal, Elijah retreats into a cave and sulks. Jezebel wants to kill him, and this is what Elijah becomes focused upon. What is Elijah’s positive feedback loop? Despite his faithfulness, his isolation reinforces his belief he is alone in the fight for God (1 Kings 19.10).

 

God clears up Elijah’s misconception, reminding him that there were other faithful servants of God in Israel (1 Kings 19.18). He wasn’t alone. God also gave Elijah a compatriot in Elisha. In other words, God introduced a negative feedback loop. No longer able to fixate solely on himself, Elijah undertook the mentorship of Elisha (1 Kings 19.16). Elisha, in turn, ministered to the needs of Elijah (1 Kings 19.21).

 

When dealing with adversity, it’s our nature to retreat into solitude. Yet, this is not what God intends for us. I’m not denying that we all need private “closet time” (Matthew 6.6). Jesus often sought solitude to pray. However, allowing ourselves to feel cut off from brethren creates a positive feedback loop accentuating our anxieties. Is it any wonder that as Christians we are commanded to focus outwardly upon others (Philippians 2.4)? We are even exhorted to assemble so we will stir one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10.24-25).

 

Let us not allow adversity to destroy our emotional equilibrium. Rather, let us use it, with the assistance of others, to weave richer colors into the tapestry of our lives.

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view from Mt. Carmel (photo credit: Kathy Pollard)
Categories
dogmatic legalism Uncategorized

Are You Dogmatic?

Neal Pollard

Brett Petrillo, one of my co-workers at Bear Valley, showed me a word (in Colossians 2:20) I did not know was in the Bible. Actually, it’s in the Greek Bible, and the word is “δογματίζω  (dogmatizo). According to BDAG, it means “to put under obligation by rules or ordinances; obligate” (Arndt, et al, 254). Kittel adds that these are rules that seem to be right but are put forward as if “to establish a decree” or “to publish an edict” (Kittel, et al, 178). The shorter form, “dogma,” is found a few times and simply means a formal, governmental decree that may or may not be in accordance with God’s will (Lk. 2:1; Acts 17:7; Heb. 11:23; it’s also used of the Old Law in Eph. 2:15 and Col. 2:14, translated as “ordinances” or “decrees”). In Colossians 2:20, the longer, verb form is translated “submit yourselves to decrees” (NASB), “submit to regulations” (ESV), “subject to ordinances” (KJV), and “submit to (the world’s) rules” (NIV). 

It was dogmatic people asking these Christians to submit to their rules. Paul describes and defines the specific rules in the circumstances plaguing the Colossians. Some were acting as their judge regarding food, drink, festivals and days (16), adding fleshly (and, in some cases, heretical) requirements (18), and making rules which did not originate with Christ (21) that he describes as “the commandments and teachings of men” (22). Paul condemns such rule making (19,23). 

How does this teaching apply to us today? We are right to point out those who tell us we don’t have to obey things which God requires of us. Lessening God’s requirements in areas He holds us responsible for is spiritually fatal. This is replacing divine commands for human ordinances. 

Yet, we cannot miss the point that the other extreme is just as wrong. To make laws, regulations, and commands and bind them upon brethren is still to replace divine commands for human ordinances. This very context points out how God feels about this.

The Lord does not need our help. He knew what His will for us was, and we cannot improve upon that. We must make sure that we’re not pressing our opinion, preference, tradition, or judgment, saying that such is the more righteous, spiritual, or godly course of action. If it is a matter of divine indifference, we should never make it a test of fellowship. Those who decide differently from us are not “less sound” or somehow “suspect.” A humble effort to follow God’s revelation will truly make us “people of the book.” To obligate people to more than that is to be “dogmatic.”

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Categories
poetry Uncategorized

Which Is Worse: Lawbreaking Or Lawmaking?

 

Neal Pollard

Scruples, proclivities, judgments, convictions,
“I would prefers” as well as “It’s betters”
Men put these on par with divinely revealed positions
Make laws they bind on others like fetters

Freedoms, liberties, rights, excesses,
“God’s grace” gives me license to sin,
Men loose themselves, and self-will professes,
“No matter how I live I’m still ‘in.'”

Perhaps all men lean to the left or the right
Are prone to rebel or restrict
But it’s darkness to be away from the light
Whichever direction one picks

These extremes are two sides of one penny
Only one way to correct either faulty course
Be sure it’s in Scripture, for way too many
Are self-led and don’t seek a heavenly source

No “thus saith the Lord,” no book, chapter, verse
That in context supports their position,
Instead, they labor under that ancient curse
Placed on binding and loosing, both are sedition!

Our task is most clear, to place ourselves under
The Sovereign will God left in His Work of inspiration
Other ground is sand, leaves our souls all asunder
Such is to build on the only firm foundation!

Man walking and balancing on rope over precipice in mountains

Categories
balance poetry stress Uncategorized

The Rubber Band Metaphor

Neal Pollard

The rubber band’s a handy tool
If it but follows a simple rule
It must know how much that it can take
If it goes beyond that, it might break

It does no good inside the drawer
Or on a peg inside the store
It must assume its intended use
If sitting unused, it amounts to abuse

But when in working operation
It must guard against its ruination
Stretched too often or too far
It will not work or be up to par.

Just like that loop which holds together
That which needs a trusty tether
You and I must know our max
And not our limit to unduly tax

We’re not useful up on the shelf
We must work hard, extend ourself
But taken too far, we risk too much
We can hurt ourselves by doing such

Let’s prayerfully consider each opportunity
And realize none has complete immunity
From burnout, fallout, stress and strain—
Then we’ll be useful, happy, strong and sane!

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Categories
preaching teachers teaching Uncategorized

WHY WE ARE TEMPTED NOT TO TEACH TRUTH

Neal Pollard

Most preachers know the unpleasant burden of having to preach on difficult subjects. There are some who, whether they find it unpleasant or not, are unpleasant in their demeanor and fully ready to frequently preach on moral, doctrinal, ethical, and other sin-related issues. However, it is distasteful business to most men who stand before congregations or sit before individuals to preach and teach the Word. What are reasons why we may be tempted not to teach truth?
1) Fear of repercussions. This is not said with cynicism or judgement of men’s motives and hearts, but for most of us there is usually fear of unwelcome consequences from preaching on a difficult subject. We do not want to offend people or their sensitivities. We do not want to cross people of influence who might encourage criticism or discontent against us personally. We do not want to see angry or hurt faces.
2) An overreaction to issue-oriented preachers. Most of us can think of a preacher or preachers who seemingly cannot stand before an audience without mounting their familiar hobby horse. Some have a stable of such stallions and a field of such fillies. Because we do not want to be that guy, we may be tempted to avoid difficult, thorny subjects.
3) Not being fully convinced that it’s truth themselves. I am convinced there are preachers who do not believe the truth on certain subjects, but they know the leadership or some in the membership do. So, they avoid preaching those subjects. If questioned on this, they can point to their lessons and defend themselves by saying they have not advocated error on a particular matter. Further investigation would reveal their silence on the matter altogether.
4) An assumption that people already know the truth on a subject. Without proper vigilance and attention to balanced preaching and teaching, this is inevitable. Especially if many in the audience grew up in the church and older members remember certain subjects being regularly addressed in their lifetime, they may not feel a sense of urgency that such subjects be periodically visited. We can raise an entire generation, assuming they believe what we came to believe through studying and hearing these matters preached. This assumption is both faulty and false.
Ephesians 4:15 and Colossians 4:6 are beacons and guides that determine how we preach. Acts 20:27 guides us as to what we preach. Fear is not an excuse for omitting certain subjects from our sermon repertoires (cf. Rev. 21:8). An overreaction that causes us to avoid all controversial, “hard” sermons is in itself an extreme (cf. Josh. 1:7). One not convinced about truth owes it to themselves and their hearers to stop preaching until they get that resolved (cf. Jas. 3:1). Assuming people know and understand the truth on a subject can make us poor stewards of the high charge we have as preachers and teachers (cf. 1 Cor. 9:16). Let us be transparently kind, caring, and concerned for people when we stand before them to teach and preach. Yet, let us have a righteous boldness and unwavering trust in the Lord to declare the whole truth so as to please Him.

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In loving consideration of my three most favorite preachers in the world!
Categories
fear Uncategorized

FEAR!

Gary Pollard III

Have you ever been terrified? I have: I’ve been hit head-on at highway speed, been attacked by feral dogs on the Navajo reservations, and once had to eat kale.

Fear is a normal part of our life, and is sometimes an annoying reminder that we are vulnerable. Fear can save your life, or cause you to push yourself to overcome. Fear can also help you get to heaven.

The Bible talks about the fear of the Lord all throughout. The concept of fearing God is mentioned over 578 times in scripture! How do we fear the Lord? A very long time ago, a man named Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon called “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” The premise of his sermon is that we are all walking a frayed tightrope over the fires of Hell with God just waiting for us to trip up and be eternally lost. His sermon is extremely well-known (even today), but is not an accurate portrayal of God’s disposition toward us (I John 1.7). Our fear of God – literal fear – comes from knowing that He is our judge and creator. It stems from a sense of awe at who He is and what He can do.

We’re all told to fear the Lord, but how do we do that in 2017? When you’re about to do something that the back of your mind tells you is probably not a good idea, think about the power of God. Think about standing in judgment before Him and how He would view your decisions. Think about the fact that your very existence is due to Him – do you think He’s not aware?

God is love by nature (I John 4.7, 8), but God is also our righteous Judge (Romans 2.2). Let’s keep that in mind this week while we’re making our decisions.

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Categories
choice culture doctrine truth Uncategorized

The Dilemma Of Discipleship: Doctrine Or Duty

Neal Pollard

Obviously, that’s not the dilemma. It is not either/or. It is both/and. But, as the church, we can find ourselves weighted one direction or the other. Some years ago, a close relative of mine was explaining why he had left a congregation that heavily emphasized doctrinal truth but were totally invisible to their community to go to a congregation heavily involved in the community but was not concerned with a distinctive message beyond the Deity and sacrifice of Jesus. Matters like women’s role, church music, the role of baptism in salvation, or even restoring New Testament Christianity were not even on their radar. When I asked him about it, he replied, “Which is worse? A church that teaches right but doesn’t practice, or a church that practices right but teaches wrong?” After a lengthy discussion, my question was, “Why can’t we strive our best to do both?”

Have we convinced ourselves that this is impossible, that one of the two have to be sacrificed upon the altar of faith? It cannot be! The early church impacted their community. They shared. They helped. They were known (Acts 2:47; 6:7; 17:6; Col. 1:23). But, their message was distinct beyond just a few vital facts about who Jesus is and what He did. There was an emphasis on teaching (Acts 2:42; 1 Tim. 4:16; 2 John 9-11; Jude 3). The inspired writers didn’t say, “If you have to choose one, choose Jesus.” No, choosing Jesus meant choosing to follow all that He commanded (Mat. 28:20; Col. 3:17).

We need to challenge ourselves by asking, “What are we doing to reach this community? Do the people near the building know about Jesus through us? Do our neighbors, co-workers, and other friends?” Yet, in increasing our efforts to be known to our community, will we have the courage to stand upon the rock of revealed truth (cf. John 8:32)? It is possible to do both, but we will always have to check and challenge ourselves. We can remain reverent and relevant. But we will always be fighting a tension between isolation and indistinctiveness. Let us have the faith and boldness to make that effort. The church is in a prime position to grow, given the cultural climate. We must be there, seen and heard for Him. If they did it in the first-century, we can do it today! Let’s keep trying.

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Categories
extremism radicalism Uncategorized

“Devil Disease”: Illustration Of Galatians 5:15?

Neal Pollard

The Tasmanian Devil population is being decimated by a strange, deadly malady known as “Devil Facial Tumor Disease.”  It is a cancer that horribly disfigures an ever-growing portion of the carnivorous marcupial’s body until it suffocates or starves from lesions in the neck.   Horrific as the disease is, its means of spreading through that animal population is even more so.  The best guess of scientists is that the cancer cell is transmitted when the Devils bite each other during the course of fights.  In attacking their fellow species, they are infecting themselves and likely precipitating their own demise.  Their infamous ill temperament may be facilitating their own extermination.

False teachers troubled Galatia.  This troubled Paul, who by inspiration denounces especially the Judaising troublemakers in the latter part of the epistle.  Paul uses many graphic ways to describe their doctrine and approach.  It was “bondage” (5:1).  It nullified the effect of Christ’s atonement in their spiritual lives (5:2).  It indebted one in a way impossible to pay (5:3).  It estranged one from Christ, causing that one to fall from grace (5:4).  It hindered true obedience to God (5:7).  It was destructive leaven (5:9).  It was brought by troublemakers and persecutors (5:11,12).  It was fleshly (5:13, 16ff).   It led to spiritual destruction (5:17-21).  It was harmful to “one another” relationships (5:26).

Yet, the most graphic description in the midst of several is found in Galatians 5:15.  Paul warned, “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another” (NKJV).  Paul had just hyperbolically yearned that the troublers would figuratively mutilate themselves (5:12), but now he says those with such a divisive, ungodly methodology were destined to spiritually wound and even destroy them.

Liberalism is a dominating, troubling concern in spiritual Israel today.  The church faces so many battles centering on proposed changes that threaten to undermine its authority and identity.  Many want to change things clearly and principally set forth in scripture to suit their own desires and inclinations.  In some places, there is an outright push to denominationalize the church of Christ and pollute our pulpits and classrooms with blatantly false ideas.

However, one is naïve who believes only one side (i.e., the “left”) is attacking biblical center.  There are too many from another direction who are equally damaging and vicious in their attacks on the body of Christ.  In one sense, they are more dangerous due to their contention that they are rooting out all false doctrine and exposing all error.  Where they are doing so with proper ethics, attitude, and balance, they are to be applauded.  Yet, there is a mentality that seems wholly obsessed with full-time heretic detection, slandering brethren, and scrupulously elevating minutia as on par with Christ’s doctrine.  They unnecessarily divide brethren and split congregations.  They polarize and draw away disciples after themselves.  They are fight-pickers, seemingly eager to engage in lengthy, unending diatribe and debate to the exclusion of other Christian obligations, of righteous, Christlike conduct, and of a charitable spirit that “is not rude…keeps no record of wrongs…does not delight in evil…” (1 Corinthians 13:5,6).

Yet, a pattern seems to be emerging among such contentious brethren.  First, they are increasingly turning on one another.  Further, they are succeeding in infecting themselves by their biting and devouring.  Then, they are facilitating their own demise—that of their influence, reputation, trustworthiness, and respectability.  However, they have also viciously wounded good men and women from among us in the process.  It is an epidemic that deserves closer attention and needs eradication.

If there is biblical center, it can be abandoned in more than one direction.  The antidote is Christ-like love that leads to love of truth and kind treatment of brethren.  To do less leads to horrific disfiguring of the body of Christ.

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NOTE: THIS WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN OVER A DECADE AGO. SCIENCE CONTINUES TO CONFIRM THAT THE DISEASE IS SPREAD BY BITING OCCURRING IN FIGHTS…

Categories
balance extremism Uncategorized

KEEP YOURSELF ON THE LEVEL

Neal Pollard

The word is maligned by some, especially by those to the right of biblical truth who believe any attempt at it is “soft.”  The word is misunderstood by others, especially by those who believe avoiding difficult, hard truths constitutes the concept.  Yet, in this age of extremism, the need for it has never been greater.  While balance takes in a great many things regarding both one’s life and teaching, many seem to have forgotten the importance of pursuing it in following Christ.

Balance is threatened when we equate our opinions, judgment, proclivities, and personal beliefs with divine truth.  This is especially of great concern when those with heightened influence among us press these matters to the point that they are portrayed as matters of faith and fellowship.  Several issues of late have emerged as such tests–that dating is sinful, that homeschooling is the only biblical means of educating our children, that having a special program or even Bible classes for youth in a congregation is wrong, and the list seems to keep growing.  Often, the old “anti” argument is made: “Where is your authority for that?”  Yet, like our non-cooperation brethren, there is a glaring lack of understanding about how God authorizes (especially as regards “generic” and “specific” authority).  Can we be opposed to dating, public schooling, homeschooling, and the like?  Certainly.  Can we be divisive or draw lines over them in the Lord’s body?  Never!  God is as condemning of law-making as law-breaking (Rev. 22:18-19; Mat. 23:2ff).

Balance is threatened through compromise with the world.  Balance is not blending in with the world, as a chameleon in its environment.  Balance is certainly not conformity (cf. Rom. 12:2).  Some preachers never touch hot-button-issues like modesty, marriage, divorce, and remarriage, instrumental music, the sinfulness of denominationalism, and more through a misguided sense that such avoidance is balance.  While one must avoid making any of these subject “hobby horses” that are ridden endlessly and exclusively, these are all biblical matters part of the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).  Often, they are avoiding out of fear or favor.  Such is not balance!

Extremism, especially noised angrily and vociferously, looks more like the culture than the Christ.  Let those of us who teach, write, and otherwise publicly communicate beware of the higher standard to which the Lord holds us (Js. 3:1ff).  Let us stand firmly and courageously upon the foundation of Christ while being careful not to press what He has not taught or suppress what He has.

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