Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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

Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).  

What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people. 

David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced. 

The first giant was the giant of degradation. 

David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals. 

The second giant was that of accusation.

In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).

The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.

He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining. 

Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!

Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Know The Enemy And Know Yourself 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

For wisdom, one cannot beat God’s inspired Word. That Word, Jesus said, is truth (John 17.17). Even so, the secular works of man can be insightful. For example, soldiers and captains of industry alike still quote China’s Sun Tzu. From his work, The Art of War, we take our title. However, the full quotation is longer. Therefore, I will share it to provide context. 

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” 1  

I realize some might say this is obvious enough to be a truism. Yet, for some, it is advice that seems so novel despite having parallels in Holy Writ. Doesn’t the Bible teach us to know our enemy as well as ourselves? Of course, it does.  

  • “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5.8, all ref. NASB1995 unless otherwise indicated) We see our enemy is on the prowl. That noun denotes stealth. Yet, it likewise signifies he is continuously on the move, a restless foe. This restlessness seems evident in the introduction of Job when we find Satan flippantly admitting to God’s question of where he has been that he has been “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1.7). Hence, in knowing our enemy, we expect that he will attack us at any time from any location. Thus, we must maintain our sobriety (i.e., sensibility) and state of preparedness (i.e., alert). As we introspectively examine ourselves, do we note that state of readiness to combat a cunning enemy? Do we have the tools for offense and defense ready? 
  • Paul reminds us that our battle is against spiritual enemies (Ephesians 6.12). And those enemies have a leader that likes to use “schemes” (“wiles” KJV) (Ephesians 6.11). In other words, we do not expect our enemy to fight fairly. In pure militaristic terms, the devil is engaged in guerrilla warfare. He cannot win the war against a superior enemy (i.e., God), so he snipes those he can. Within the same context, though, we observe what we have at our disposal: the panoply of God. God’s armor consists of a loin covering (truth), breastplate (righteousness), shoes (readiness), shield (faith), sword (God’s Word), and helmet (salvation) (Ephesians 6.13-17). These items we must wield with prayer and alertness if we desire to win (Ephesians 6.18). Do we actively use God’s armor, or has our apathetic spirit cast it aside? 

In all fairness, Sun Tzu admits that knowledge alone cannot ensure every victory. And we acknowledge that, as Christians, there are times when we lose a battle against the enemy. Everyone sins (Romans 3.23). There are even occasions when the enemy is in more significant numbers. In such situations, Tzu says it is best to avoid the enemy. Of course, we cannot do that as Christians (John 17.14-16). But we can flee from sin (1 Corinthians 6.18; 10.14; 1 Timothy 6.10-12; 2 Timothy 2.22). And we must keep good company to ensure we are not corrupted (1 Corinthians 15.33). We must periodically check our footing (1 Corinthians 10.12). And when we are seeking to restore someone, we must look to ourselves so that we are not tempted (Galatians 6.1). In the end, though, Tzu’s truism serves us well. We must know our enemy and ourselves. In the interim, as we fight this good fight, we look forward to the day when God will destroy the enemy. Until then, we take comfort from these inspired words: 

“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” (1 John 5.4) 

Sources Cited 

1 Tzu, Sun. “A Quote from the Art of War.” Goodreads, Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/17976-if-you-know-the-enemy-and-know-yourself-you-need

FIGHTING HAGRITES AND OTHERS

FIGHTING HAGRITES AND OTHERS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

1 Chronicles 5 devotes a relatively large amount of space to an incident that happened during King Saul’s reign. It involved the sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh waging war with a people identified as “the Hagrites, Jehur, Naphish, and Nodab” (18-19). The contested area of land was east of the Jordan River in the territory allotted to the Israelites mentioned in verse 18.  At least some of the people they fought seem descended from Hagar and Ishmael. The focus was on the large land grab made by these Israelites in battle. They won this war in terms of spoil (21) and casualties (21-22). 

Today, we wage war of a very different type. New Testament writers describe it. It is not according to the flesh, but is intense nonetheless (2 Cor. 10:3-5). It is a fight of faith (1 Tim. 1:18). It is against world and spiritual forces necessitating our adorning spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10ff). We can feel overmatched and overwhelmed by this enemy. What can help us stay in the fight? There are four statements back in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22 that we can legitimately apply to our spiritual warfare today. Will you remember these?

You Will Be Helped (20).

The chronicler says this of the Israelites. “They were helped against them,” and it is implied in this verse that their help came from above. There is no way we could overcome the world (1 John 4:4; 5:4) without Divine help. God gives His help generously, gently, and graciously (Jas. 1:5). He tells us that all we need to do is ask (cf. Mat. 7:7). God’s help is THE difference-maker! 

Cry Out To God In The Battle (20).

If we are striving to be faithful, we will be in a battle. What can be done? These Israelites were helped because they cried out to God in the midst of the strife. I love how Paul says it to the Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). Don’t neglect prayer in the thick of the fight. Paul follows up his description of our spiritual armor, urging “all prayer and petition…at all times” (Eph. 6:18).

God Answers Those Who Trust In Him (20).

To me, nothing is more beautiful to consider than an army bowed in prayer to God to help them. As a citizen of this nation, it is wonderful to consider our military filled with men and women doing that. But, the most beautiful picture of all has to be of God’s Holy Nation (1 Pet. 2:9) filled with spiritual warriors who so put their trust in God that they are constantly before His throne in prayerful petition. Revelation 8 describes in beautiful imagery how carefully and preciously He handles the prayers of the saints brought unto His throne. It is likened to sweet-smelling incense. God is a loving Father who is pleased when His children demonstrate trust in His leadership and guidance. The promise of Scripture is that those who trust in Him are delivered and are not disappointed (Ps. 22:4-5). 

Understand The War Is Of God (22).

We often sing, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” This passage tells us why the enemy was slain. “The war was of God.” The result was that they settled in their place until the exile, which was over 300 years later.  As great as that was, we stand to experience a far greater victory. God disapproves of unworthy battles–“foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Tim. 2:23), “foolish controversies” that “are unprofitable and worthless” (Tit. 3:9), or quarrels and conflicts that are fueled by our giving into the sins of our flesh (Js. 4:1ff). Be careful not to be a foot soldier carrying out the agenda of the foe. But if we are on the Lord’s side, we can be assured that He will gain the victory and we’ll be fighting on the winning side. 

Maybe we wonder why God recorded events like this in Scripture. It certainly shows His mind, nature, and power. But it also helps us understand His point of view and His desire in our lives today. The church has “Hagrites” to face. You and I have our own “Hagrites” to battle. How they won is how we’ll win. May the song on our hearts and lips ever be, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!”

Hope For The Christian Who Struggles With Sin

Hope For The Christian Who Struggles With Sin

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

We are imperfect people trying to get to Heaven, and we make mistakes. Throughout scripture is a distinction between people who live to sin and people who struggle with sin, but live for God. 

I John 5.16, 17 and Romans 7.5-8.17 are perhaps the most encouraging passages for a Christian who struggles with sin. These passages demonstrate God’s willingness and great desire to keep us pure, even when we struggle with sin. 

Paul teaches us that sin is something we struggle with and should hate (Rom. 7.15-20). We don’t want to sin, but we do. We love God’s law, we recognize that it’s good, and we want to live up to it, but we often don’t (7.22, 23). Paul even goes so far as to say, “I don’t understand my actions. I don’t do what I want, but I do what I hate” (Rom. 7.15). It causes him great distress, and he expresses a desire that all creation shares: release from sin’s power and life with God without the possibility of sin’s influence (7.24; 8.22-24). He says twice that sins we struggle against are not held to our account (7.17 and 7.20). 

I John 5.16, 17 shows that a Christian who struggles with sin is still pure in God’s eyes. The key idea is struggle. We can’t fool God – He looks at our hearts to determine whether we hate the sin in our lives or welcome it with open arms (Rom. 7.27). If sin is something we hate, grace keeps us pure despite our weakness (I John 1.9, 10; 3.19-24; 4.13-19; 5.18-20; Romans 7.25)! 

This is so encouraging because it shows that God does everything within His power to keep us pure. We are lost when we reject Him to pursue a sinful lifestyle, certainly. But if we hate our sin and fight our sin, He keeps us faithful! 

Heaven is attainable, God is good. 

Over 50 members came to pray Tuesday night for our soul-winning plans, including our “Fill The Void” seminar (photo credit: Randy Simpson)

A Story You Don’t Hear In Vacation Bible School

A Story You Don’t Hear In Vacation Bible School

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Civil war has broken out in the kingdom after Saul’s death. David is a patriot who loves his people so he offers to treat Saul’s followers well after Judah crowns him as king. However, a man named, Abner, takes matters into his own hands and he defies God’s chosen king. He sets up Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, as their new ruler instead. Abner, who was the general of Saul’s army, along with the servants of Ish-bosheth, make their way to the pool of Gibeon. This was a large pool carved out of rock by Saul’s father. Once they arrive they sit down. On the opposite side of the pool, Joab, David’s nephew, and his servants meet them and sit as well. Behind them, two armies stand in formation, ready for war— brother against brother. Abner, perhaps to prevent the death toll that a larger battle would bring, suggests that their servants fight for them. Joab agrees, but this idea quickly leads to a slaughter. Each servant grabs the other by the head, clinching hair in a tight fist, and cuts each other down simultaneously. This short altercation doesn’t provide a victor, so both armies charge each other. It’s a battle that is fought with so much passion, but God grants David’s army with the win. I imagine the Man After God’s Own Heart did not take joy in this victory. The chaos of war has already taken so much from him, including the life of his best friend, Jonathan.

After the battle of Gibeon has ended, David’s nephew, Asahel, takes off after the fleeing Abner. Asahel was known for his speed and agility, with it being likened to that of a gazelle. This speed allowed him to pass the others that were also in pursuit and he finds himself on the heels of Abner in no time. His swiftness will bring him a swift death. While Abner is not as quick, he is older with more experience. Twice Abner asks Asahel to stop this foolish attempt to take his life, but Asahel doesn’t take this advice. This is when Abner thrusts his spear behind him and the butt end of the spear goes through Asahel’s stomach and out the other side, killing the young warrior. 

This is probably an account you never heard in Vacation Bible School, but there is so much we can learn from this event found in 2 Samuel 2:12-24. We notice how deadly pride can be. First, there is the pride of Abner in rejecting David as king, and then there’s the pride of Asahel. He was famous for being quick on his feet, but clearly slow in thought. Preachers and teachers can become well known for their ability to speak and proclaim God’s word. This fame can also be their own spiritual downfall if they begin to think more of themselves than they should. When we post scriptures, baptisms, or other good deeds on social media for our own praise and admiration, God may be the only One that sees your heart. Those are the only eyes that matter since they belong to the One that will be our final Judge.

We also learn from this story that serving a dead king is futile. As Christians we serve the King of Kings, God’s anointed son. Those standing with Him will always win. Those that chose to take matters into their own hands are fighting a losing battle.

When we read about events like this in the Bible it should also make us thankful for the day when we will enjoy a place where there is no heartache, bloodshed, or wickedness. Even David had to endure his share of trials, but now he’s with the God he modeled his heart after— and, we can assume, Jonathan. No matter what struggle we may find ourselves tangled up in, let’s place our focus on that heavenly reunion. 

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photo via Flickr

In Their Steps (Poem)

In Their Steps (Poem)

Neal Pollard

They fought a fight of sacrifice
On land, by air, and sea
Privation, starvation, an awful price
To guard our liberty

Some were cut down in prime of life
Others came home with scars
They faced great fears and perilous strife
For country, for stars and bars

We owe a debt of gratitude
We never could repay
May we have a humble attitude
This aptly named Memorial Day

And looking backward to a different nation
One more ancient, but still existent
We are humbled by their proclamation
Of their allegiance most persistent

They gave their lives in spiritual war
Fighting the wily adversary
Faithful unto death, this sanctified score
Wore their armor, though the battle was scary

We walk behind these noble groups
One in nation, the other in doctrine
Our lives should be changed by these gallant troops
We should be better because of this squadron

Each reminds us that freedom is not cheap
Each shows us the greatness of service
If fidelity is sown, then great honor we reap
Cowardice would do them both disservice

May we step forward, the church of our Lord
While these freedoms remain to us all
And share Christ boldly, with vigor restored
And answer our Chief Commander’s call!

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