A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

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. 

Get Angry!

Get Angry!

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Balance is frustratingly difficult to pinpoint and maintain. More often than not we gravitate toward an extreme on either end of balance. 

With anger, most will fall into one of the extremes: either one has no spine or is prone to losing control. 

An example of balance can be found in Ephesians 4.26. It begins with a passive imperative: “be angry.” There is a time and place for this unpleasant emotion – any damage to the bride of Christ warrants this response, for example. 

There are three imperatives to balance out our use of anger: 

  1. Do not sin. 
  2. Do not let the sun go down on your anger. 
  3. Do not give the devil an opportunity. 

Anger is sometimes necessary, but it must be short-lived. 

Unchecked anger gives Satan space in our hearts. The word translated “opportunity” is τόπος (topos), which is a place to live, an inhabited structure, or a favorable circumstance for doing something (BDAG 1011). If we allow our anger to get out of control, we’ve created favorable circumstances for Satan to influence us. 

Since balance is what we’re looking for, we have to get angry to create positive change, but we have to temper (aha) that anger with restraint if we don’t want Satan to have a chance to influence the church through us. 

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Surrounded by Orange Daylilies

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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Lessons From Adversity: Finding Equilibrium

Lessons From Adversity: Finding Equilibrium

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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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)

Are You Dogmatic?

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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Which Is Worse: Lawbreaking Or Lawmaking?

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!

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The Rubber Band Metaphor

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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WHY WE ARE TEMPTED NOT TO TEACH TRUTH

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!

FEAR!

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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The Dilemma Of Discipleship: Doctrine Or Duty

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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