Listen! 

Listen! 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Daleheadshot

Dale Pollard

Listen! That’s how Jesus starts His lesson in Mark 4:3. He has just stepped out onto a boat so that He could speak to the large crowd that had gathered to hear Him. This was a very special sermon. Jesus is going to give the secret to all of His parables by telling a unique parable about the farmer who goes out to sow on the various kinds of ground. When Jesus said “Listen!” He was talking to a specific kind of person. 

He wasn’t interested in the one who would hear His words and then fall away later when called to stand up for their faith. He wasn’t looking for the one who would hear His words and then foolishly decide that this world had more to offer. 

Jesus said “listen!” because He knew that some would hear His words and those words would change their lives. They would live out His teachings. They would become those lamps He would later discuss later in the chapter. Those who truly listened to this specific sermon and took it to heart would bear fruit. It’s humbling to think that some only believe they’ve listened to Jesus, but on the last day will find out that they only thought they listened (verse 25). 

Are we listening to the Savior? One way Jesus tells us we can know if we and others are listening is by looking at the fruit being planted. This section of scripture is a great reminder that there are many who will not hear the Lord and His life-changing and life-saving message, but there are also those out there in our communities who are willing and waiting for us to share Him with them.

Sprouting Our Wings

Sprouting Our Wings

Dale Pollard

The kit comes with everything you need to raise your very own Sea Monkeys. I remember the very first batch of these strange creatures I grew when I was a young boy. A small package of tiny brown eggs are dumped into purified water and then after two weeks they’ve hatched into real swimming organisms. That change is fascinating and it’s almost mesmerizing to watch them all dart around inside their aquarium. In the animal world the process of metamorphosis is very common and we’re not too surprised when it happens. It’s interesting and exciting, but it’s expected. We aren’t confused when a tadpole turns into a frog or when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly, because it’s natural. 

In Romans 12:2 we read that as Christians we are to undergo a drastic spiritual transformation by the “renewal of the mind.” The Greek word used for “transformation” here is where we get the word “metamorphosis” from, and that’s very telling. The idea is that the transformation process we are to undergo is not a small change like getting a haircut or getting contacts, but a dramatic and radical change. We are to have an entirely different mind, heart, and outlook on life. We have been transformed into someone and something entirely different. In the animal world there is an essential process involved in metamorphosis. If the caterpillar never spins a cocoon, then it could never hope to sprout wings. If the caterpillar leaves the cocoon too soon then it can’t expect to be as developed and healthy as it needs to be. There is a natural time allotted for the change to occur. Christians are expected to grow but not to be completely transformed overnight; we, too, have a process. This shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not be proactive in growing our faith, but it should be a reminder that if we’re not working toward this transformation we will remain in the same state in which we are now. That is unnatural.

Why does that caterpillar slowly climb that tall tree or take the time to painstakingly wrap itself in that cocoon? Because it knows it wasn’t meant to be a caterpillar forever. The work it takes to be transformed and to sprout the wings of a great and mature faith is a difficult process, but it’s worth it. That’s what God expects from us and He has the power to help us make this amazing change. Our prayer lives and our time spent in His Word are crucial to our development. We should let the end goal be the motivation to press on and allow ourselves to be completely transformed. One day that effort will show when we see our new bodies (Philippians 3:21) and we’ve reached our final glorious destination. We will live forever with the Savior who transformed us. 

A Need For Honesty

A Need For Honesty

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

 
How much do you trust a liar? A study was conducted by Psychology Today where they asked 1000 people how many lies they’ve told in the last 24 hours. The average answer was two lies, but 75 percent of men said they would lie if they were talking about their social status. 80 percent of women said they have lied about their weight.
 
The average person we come in contact with has no problem lying to us. Whether it’s at work, in school or to friends and family, the majority of people feel that it’s morally okay to lie.
 
Ephesians 4:25 says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”
 
“Therefore” is a grammatical tie to previous verses. Each time we read this word we should see it as a finger pointing up to the previous verses. Contextually Paul is saying, “Therefore, since we have put on the new self lay aside falsehood.”
 
If you’re a Christian reading this verse, you have put on the new self. So we are commanded to stop lying and be truthful in our interactions with others.
 
Paul commands us to tell the truth. This seems like a simple command, yet sadly we get caught up in telling lies. We want what’s easiest. Many are tempted to take what seems to be the easy way out.
But there is something to keep in mind the next time we are tempted to lie:
 
Our reputation is ruined by dishonesty. If people catch us lying, why would they believe us at all? The boy who cried wolf is a prime example of this very fact. We all know how this story goes, and the bottom line is we lose our credibility if we lie. When we are honest and choose to tell the truth, people will trust us, and God’s Word has a better chance of reaching the lost.
 
When it comes to our Christianity, we want people to trust us. When we lie we lose our credibility and our ability to proclaim the gospel is harmed. Telling the truth in every situation is an attribute we are to have in our new walk with Christ. Plus, nobody wants to be friends with a liar.
When You Need To Let Go

When You Need To Let Go

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Today was a momentous and somber day for me: I am now bald. After removing my hat – a constant companion – I saw that the battle was lost and shaved my head. ‘Twas a truly humbling moment; I now understand what the greatest youth minister of all time – Brett Petrillo – felt when he, too, bid a final farewell to his hair. We never know what we have until it is but a wishful yearning for yesteryear.
Being a minister in a family of ministers, I must allegorize this milestone before the tombstone. I fought to keep something that was not only lost, but that should have been let go long before now. Instead of seeing the writing on the wall I thought, “Maybe I can keep it.” Or, “Maybe no one will notice.” Or, “Maybe I can make it seem like something it isn’t.”
We do this a lot in our spiritual lives, too. We might hold onto grudges, bad attitudes, sin problems, past hurts, pet peeves, or guilt. Holding onto these is hopeless and counterproductive.
Are we holding onto a grudge? Jesus said in Matthew 5.23, 24, that we shouldn’t even worship if we have something against a brother/sister or if they have something against us. Matthew six tells us that forgiving others is a condition of receiving forgiveness.
Are we nursing a bad attitude? Paul, writing to Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4, addressed their attitude problem bluntly. The first part of chapter two commands them to embody traits such as encouragement, consolation, affection, and compassion. He gives an example of the selflessness of Jesus – something driven by His attitude. He put others above Himself, even though He didn’t have to. In Philippians 2.12, Paul even states that attitude can determine where we will spend eternity! If we have a bad attitude, we need to shave it.
What about guilt? Perhaps nothing is so tragically difficult to let go of as guilt. Sometimes guilt is necessary to help us see our faults and seek forgiveness. Just as often, if not more so, guilt is a weight that holds us back from spiritual growth. We must understand, internalize, and have gratitude for the gift of grace. The whole purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice was to give us grace and access to God. I John makes it very clear that a forgiven Christian who continues to live his/her imperfect life in pursuit of God is perfect in His eyes. If guilt while under grace is present and weighing us down, we need to shave it. It is one of Satan’s most powerful weapons against the Christian. It will hamstring any effort we make to grow spiritually, as our minds focus more on our past than on our infinitely more important future.
Certainly more could be said on the subject but while we have some time on our hands, we might do a little introspection and see what we can let go of. It will be uncomfortable, it will be uncertain, and it will be worth the effort. Shaving what we needn’t hold onto will not only bring greater joy, it will also bring a healthier relationship with God and our Christian family.
94671940_265784144601282_8304130777881247744_n
BEWARE OF SPIRITUAL ATTRITION

BEWARE OF SPIRITUAL ATTRITION

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

25586779_10155207977480922_6214117991468108390_o

Neal Pollard

Life has dramatically changed for us on a daily basis. Whether it be liberties that have been restricted or routines that have been disrupted, we have experienced significant upheaval. Some of it has been dramatically better, as for many we have been given a slower pace that has produced much more time with family and projects done together that we will always treasure. There is vast potential for much better marriage and family habits to come from this experience, as well as a reshuffling of priorities on the other side of this quarantine.

Of course, for many this will be remembered as a season of trial. We are hearing of members of the church who have contracted and even died with this deadly virus. Church families around the nation have members who are part of the at least ten percent of those who have lost their jobs or been laid off. How many parents, grandparents, and other loved ones are in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals, and residences where we cannot have physical contact with them for their safety’s sake? As devastating as anything, though, is the dreadful disruption to “church life” because we cannot assemble together for church services, fellowship activities, devotionals, seminars and workshops, and the like. There will be permanent, far-reaching impacts physically, economically, and socially, but what about spiritually?

Guard Against Social Disconnection

For the time being, we are more or less forced into social distancing. Hopefully, this can be modified soon and ultimately return to pre-virus levels. It will be important to return to the physical dimension of contact with each other provided uniquely through our assemblies. My prayer is that we will treasure fellowship like never before. We will zealously obey the command to consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds through our assemblies (Heb. 10:24-25), being “devoted to one another in brotherly love” and to “give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:10) between our scheduled services (Acts 2:46). Don’t let the devil use this to form a permanent social wedge between you and the church.

Guard Against Stress And Anxiety

There are no psychological studies to measure the effects of mass isolation and sheltering in place on a scale like this has caused. No doubt, the more functional and stable the home environment and the more emotional support available to a person, the better he or she will fare. How many cut off from their normal routines are also constantly feeding themselves a steady diet of the news, which none can rightly classify as edifying? Conspiracy theories aside, there are the stressors like the ones mentioned above. Fears can eclipse faith and worry can lead to weakness. This trial is an excellent opportunity to build trust (Psa. 37:3-6), endurance (Jas. 1:3), righteousness (Heb. 12:11), hope (Job 13:15), and more. 

Guard Against Spiritual Doldrums And Self-Absorption

This has tested our time management skills. Having more time on our hands does not automatically translate into “making the most of the opportunity” (Col. 4:5). Will we have done more binge-watching or Bible reading through this? Will we have tended more to self-care or finding ways to serve (phone calls, texts, emails, cards, etc., to spiritual family and others we might influence and encourage)? Will we have focused more on how this has impacted us or how we can impact others?

The good news is that, for all of us, this is a story whose last chapters have not been written. Each day is an opportunity for spiritual growth and improvement. None of us would have wished something like this to happen, but each of us chooses what we will make of it. Let’s remain vigilant. Certainly, Satan would like to take advantage of us (2 Cor. 2:11), and he could use our current circumstances to dislodge us from faithfulness. Yet, Scripture promises something that we can count on: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:7-8a). May that be the end result for us all! 

social-distancing-4981230_960_720

Responding To The Purge

Responding To The Purge

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

I rarely watch television. I find most programming today unimaginative (e.g. reboots) and fraught with immorality. When I do watch something, it’s likely a sporting event, home improvement show, or vintage sitcom. As I was catching a few minutes of a classic sitcom, my dad remarked that one of the actresses on screen died from cancer during the run of the show. Curious, I looked up information about the show on the internet. In so doing, I encountered a curious expression: “rural purge.”

In 1970, American broadcasters, particularly CBS, put the ax to lighthearted, rural-themed and folksy shows then airing on TV in favor of more socially progressive urban and suburban-set shows. Pat Buttram, the actor who played the role of “Mr. Haney” on Green Acres, is quoted by Ken Berry as saying of the rural purge “It was the year CBS killed everything with a tree in it.” 1  Ken Berry thought that CBS was tired of being teased as the “Country Broadcasting System” since they perceived themselves as the “Tiffany Network” because of their vaunted news division. 2 It had been the executive in charge of programming at CBS who was tired of the shows and canceled them despite their good Nielsen ratings. The absence of family-friendly fare did not go unnoticed by the public, including even politicians like President Nixon. 3

The “rural purge” suggests several Biblical points to me. First, it demonstrates an unfortunate characteristic of fallen human nature that the proven (and wholesome) is often dumped for something else simply because of its “novelty.” God noted this was likewise true in Jeremiah’s day. When He advised them to take the established path, they refused (Jeremiah 6.16). They preferred their new, idolatrous way.

Second, it shows us why leadership matters. Paul warned the coming apostasy would begin with the elders (Acts 20.29-30.) I am mindful of congregations about which I’ve read in some of our brotherhood publications where the Biblical pattern was changed after the elders “reconsidered an issue prayerfully.” The sheep who know that their shepherds are leading them astray are left with a dilemma. Despite nothing being wrong previously, changes were foisted upon them by the leadership. Their family is changed. What will they do?

Lastly, it shows the importance of perseverance.

As the “rural purge” continued, there arose an anomaly. To placate the aforementioned public complaints, CBS reluctantly greenlighted a Christmas special based on a story by Earl Hamner, Jr. They purposely pitted it against popular shows on other networks they felt would crush their program! It didn’t. It was such a hit that CBS had no choice but to develop it into a new series that would run for 9 seasons. The Waltons. Because people refused to give up and give in to whims of the programing executive at CBS, a renaissance of family-friendly programs on all networks began.

Sometimes we feel as if our efforts are wasted, especially when it comes to our sinful culture. However, we are told that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. So, we are exhorted to remain steadfast (1 Corinthians 15.58). God ensures that His Word doesn’t return void and gives increase when faithfully spoken (Isaiah 55.11; 1 Corinthians 3.5-7). Therefore, let us stand and let our voices be heard, even if we find ourselves amid a “Christian purge.”

 

References

1 “Television Academy Interviews.” Television Academy Interviews, Television Academy, 22 Feb. 2019, interviews.televisionacademy.com/interviews/ken-berry?clip=60761#highlight-clips.

2 ibid

3 “Rural Purge.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rural_purge.

516px-waltons_1972

So You Have A Sinful Past? (POEM)

So You Have A Sinful Past? (POEM)

 

Neal Pollard

Moses was a murderer, Rahab was a liar,
David was an adulterer and to murder he did conspire,
Gideon and Timothy were timid, Peter a confirmed denier,
Paul wrecked havoc on the church, so full of hate and ire.

God, from time immemorial, has used the earthen vessel,
Sons of thunder or deceivers– like Jacob, who an angel did wrestle.
Just like Abraham and Isaac, very human if chosen and special
Barak, Samson, Jephthah, who with flaws their faith did nestle

From cover to cover, Scripture shows that God works through sinners
Preachers, prophets, kings and elders, saints and great soul-winners
It helps us who would serve today, to be better enders than beginners
To not let sin defeat us, to go from offenders to God defenders

Perhaps you have a sinful past or there’s guilt here in your today
A habit, sin, or weakness, crimes of deeds, thoughts, or what you say
Look back to men and women of old, they willed for they knew The Way
Conquer through Christ your old man, get busy, trust in God and obey!

Peter denying Jesus
Peter denying Christ

Fickleness

Fickleness

Neal Pollard

Here is my estimation of Peyton Manning’s few seasons in Denver so far: “Football fans frenetic for a famous flinger fawned over his fabulous finesse. A few festive, favorable football seasons fashioned full fondness for this fabled figure. Following his foot foibles and flawed, flat functioning, fickle followers flung their festering frustration field-ward, filling the field with foulness. Finally, this furtive footballer fell from fame, fun, and fondness from these fanatics. Forsooth, feelings fade, flag, and falter in fast fashion.”  That’s probably not completely fair, but it was a fun foray for me. Somebody stop me!

I will say this about human tendency—we are quick to crown our heroes and often quicker to dethrone them.  Janet Jackson captured the collective psyche of humanity with her song, “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” No one is safe or immune from the clutches of people’s capricious whims.

No one has ever been treated in greater fair-weathered fashion than Jesus Christ. On Sunday, He entered the city of Jerusalem to a welcome from a multitude of people crying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mat. 21:9). The whole city was “moved” by Him (Mat. 21:10). By Friday, the multitudes were crying and crying louder, “Let Him be crucified!” (Mat. 27:22,24). Same Man. Same city. Certainly some of the same people. Polar opposite sentiment in just five days time. Their excited plea changed from crown Him to kill Him. Adoration was overrun by anger. How baffling!

Looking back, we can be filled with such indignation. Yet, when we look at our own lives, does our estimation of Jesus change with the events we endure in life? How do we feel toward Him in good times? Desperate times? When we struggle? When we are afraid? When we’re disappointed or betrayed? When we fail? When we’re lonely or loved?  Some live life on a spiritual roller coaster, vacillating between devotion and denial. The slightest trigger can change our tune from “How I love You!” to “How could You?!”

Faithful endurance must be our rudder. We can develop the mindset of the beleaguered Job, who cried, “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him” (Job 13:15).  How it must please God to see steady, unwavering devotion from His saints, determined to stick with Him through thick and thin. Let’s be grateful that He does that for us! “It is a trustworthy statement: For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him; If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13).

Launch Out Into The Deep

Launch Out Into The Deep

Neal Pollard

When Jesus met Peter, it may have seemed like an ordinary day to the Galilean fisherman. Simon Peter and his partners had just spent a long night fishing with no results.  You can imagine they were irritated and frustrated, maybe even feeling sorry for themselves. Then, Jesus commandeered Simon’s boat and used it to teach. This presumably would have been Peter’s first impression of Christ, though we do not know how closely he was paying attention to the Lord.  In Luke 5:4, Jesus stops preaching to the crowd and addresses Peter. He says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus has ulterior motives, but the command is for Peter to literally cast his nets to try to make a literal catch of fish. Immediately, though, Peter is exposed to something far greater than anything earthly or material. Notice how this account illustrates the call of scripture in which Christ tells us, like Peter to launch out into the deep in faith to do great things for Him.

Launch out into the deep…even if, despite great effort, you have failed in the past (Luke 5:5). Simon explained that he and his associates had struck out overnight. Jesus was telling him not to worry about the past. He tells us the same things today. If you have failed in trying to do right or have succeeded in doing wrong, don’t give up hope. Launch out again!

Launch out into the deep…at the prompting of God’s Word (Luke 5:5). Simon was willing. What a great character trait. He tells Jesus, “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Simon says, “I value and respect your word enough to try again where I failed in the past.” Do we trust God’s promises and revere God’s commands enough to keep trying and biting off big things for the Lord?

Launch out into the deep…and involve others with you (Luke 5:7). Of course, with the Lord’s help, Simon became a success. In fact, the disciple knew immediately that he was not big enough to tackle his opportunities alone. He got his partners involved. In the Lord’s church today, each of us as Christians are partners and associates together with Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-6:1). Launching out into the deep requires involving as many as possible, for the task is so great and too much for one alone.

Launch out into the deep…and astonishing things can happen (Luke 5:9-11). First, the catch of fish is astonishing to them. Then, Jesus’ commissioning of them is astonishing (to turn from fish to men). Finally, their response is astonishing. They get to land, leave their boats and all they have, and follow Jesus. Eventually, they change the entire world! Launch out into the deep.  Who knows what you can do through Christ (cf. Phil. 4:13), but it will be astonishingly amazing.

Obviously, this was about men and not about fish.  Jesus was not interested in making them rich fishermen in Galilee.  He was looking to enrich the people of Galilee and far beyond through these fishermen. All it took was for some men who believed in God’s power to launch out into the deep.

How To See The Good In Others

How To See The Good In Others

Neal Pollard

Some just can’t! They assume bad motives, intentions, and behaviors in others. They like to predict failure and disaster. Some take that attitude toward people, including Christians. “They won’t last!” “They can’t cut it as a deacon/elder.” “He won’t ever be a good preacher!” “They just want the praise of men.” Think about all the people you know and interact with. Some are exceptionally talented and pleasant and some are pretty worthless and repulsive, but most are in-between the two extremes. But, what if I told you that you could influence what others become?  Barnabas did (Acts 4:36).  He was so good at encouraging people, “encouragement” wasn’t his middle name but his first name. Who was the first one to see good in Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:27)? Who saw great potential in Antioch (Acts 11:23-26)? Who still believed in John Mark (Acts 15:37), who Paul would later think valuable once more (2 Tim. 4:11)? Barnabas was a great leader because of what he could see in others. We can make an eternal difference in people by seeing the good in them.

First, take them where they are. Jesus did.  Do you remember when Jesus met Peter (Luke 5:1-11)? Peter calls himself sinful.  We know he was impetuous (John 18:10) and could use unsavory words (Mat. 26:74). Peter’s business partners, the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) seemed to have some anger management issues. In fact, Jesus made it an emphasis to take sinful people and work with them wherever they were (the woman at the well, the sinful woman caught in adultery, Bacchus, publicans, sinners, etc.). We will never help people get to heaven if we can’t take them where they are.

Then, see them for what they could be. Whether it’s a non-Christian or Christian, they need us to be able to see their potential and think the best of them. I don’t mean gullibility or compromise, but optimism! Why did Christ put such effort into Peter? He was a sinful man when He met him, made many mistakes while he was with Him, and denied Him in His greatest moment of need (Luke 22:60-62). He saw what Peter could be (John 21:15-17). Look past people’s quirks and flaws; imagine the possibilities.  There’s got to be a soul-winner in every Christian, since Christ commands it of us all (Mark 16:15-16). Every one of us can be faithful, dedicated, and fruitful Christians. Every lost person could have their hearts softened by the gospel–at the least the gospel has the power (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16). Remember, love “hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

Finally, help them be what they can be. It’s far easier to be the critic and tell people what they’re doing wrong. But remember, “To belittle is to be little.” Criticism alone is useless.  It’s a lot tougher to help people improve and to go about helping with patience. Jesus didn’t end His work by telling people what sinners or failures they were. He guided them to the better way (Mat. 7:13). He told the adulteress to stop sinning (John 8:11). He told Peter to go feed His sheep (John 21). When He was through with Zaccheus, he went from thief to philanthropist. Jesus’ whole purpose was to take people afflicted with sin and transform them. It is rewarding work to invest in people and to help them grow. The Bible tells us to help people do better and be better (Gal. 6:1). To see the best in others, be willing to help and lead them (Luke 6:39-40).

If we are negative and pessimistic, that really is just a commentary on us. Look for good in others. Accept, anticipate, and assist!