What It Takes To Follow Jesus

What It Takes To Follow Jesus

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Luke moves from a sample of Jesus’ teaching and work in the synagogues to His teaching and work among the common people in Luke 5:1-11. For the first time, in Luke five, we see individuals responding to His teaching by following Him. Though Luke only identifies one of the men at this point, the three other gospel writers mention that Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, was also in that number. Matthew and Mark tell us that the men in the other boat were James and John. These four fishermen would soon “be catching men” (10). Luke seems to focus his attention on the reaction these men had to Jesus, His teaching, and the impact the miracle with the fish had on them. Their reaction to Jesus mirrors the reaction we need to have when called by His Word to follow Him.

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES EXPOSURE TO JESUS’ WORD (1-4).

Luke shows us Jesus teaching in close proximity to the fishermen, but gives no clear indication of how much or if they are listening to Him. He does show how compelling Jesus’ teaching is and how the people were listening (1). John tells us, though, that Andrew had already been listening to Jesus and was trying to persuade Simon to follow Him (1:40-42). Paul’s teaching that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) will be apparent in the lives of these followers, as Luke will demonstrate in this gospel and the book of Acts. We cannot follow one whose ideas, instruction, and incentives we do not know or believe. 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES UNCONDITIONAL SUBMISSION (5-7).

This is not a one-time act. Submission is a process that must be practiced continually. But, no one can choose to follow who does not surrender his or her own will to Christ’s (cf. 9:23-26). Jesus, the carpenter, tells these fishermen how to fish. Despite their all-night total failure at their craft, they trust Jesus’ word. Simon says, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets” (5). Success followed submission, something they would see in greater, more important ways as they continued to follow Him. Jesus asks us to do difficult and perplexing things. Our task is not to question, but simply to surrender. 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES A HUMILITY TO SEE OUR SINFUL SELVES (8).

Simon will show traits which prove him to be a work in progress, from impetuousness to inconsistency. Yet, Jesus could see his heart and the inspired Luke sheds light on it, too. When Peter sees the power of His Lord, he says, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (8). All of us will disappoint Jesus in our walk with Him, but He loves a heart that harbors no stubborn pride. This is the man Jesus will choose as a leader and spokesman, one who does not try to project perfection and superiority. So it is today (1 Pet. 5:5-6). 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES PROPERLY CHANNELING EMOTION (9-10).

Exposure to Jesus left these fishermen “seized” (enclosed, completely taken hold of) with “amazement” (9). It made them “fear” (10). Others felt emotion like this who were exposed to Jesus’ power and preaching, and they audaciously reject Him (4:22-30; 8:26-39). These four men, amazed and afraid, will be prompted by this to make the life-changing (and life-giving) choice to follow Him. I have seen people in Bible studies and in their pew who realize the truth of the gospel, showing (and even telling of) remorse, dread, and anxiety over their lostness, but who just cannot make the decision to deny self and follow Jesus. I cannot think of a greater tragedy. In my own life, it is not simply enough to feel sorrow over my sin. I must allow this to move me to obedience (2 Cor. 7:9-11). 

DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES RADICAL CHANGE (11).

Luke will record several positive examples of people whose encounter with Jesus is transformational! Think the sinful woman (7:36-50), the demoniac (8:26-39), the grateful leper (17:11-21), and Zaccheus (19:1-10). Some, though, were just not willing (18:18-27). Luke records multiple occasions where Jesus warns that discipleship requires radical change (cf. 9:57-62). Other writers will contrast it as putting off the old man and putting on the new man (Eph. 4:22-32; Col. 3:5-17; Heb. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:1ff). Here, Luke simply relates how that they immediately left everything and followed Him. While that may not be a literal necessity today, we cannot hope to have eternal life while holding onto this life so much that we are not following His will. 

These men were about to see things they could not have imagined, experience highs and lows they did not know existed, and be given opportunities they could not have anticipated. It wasn’t going to be an easy life; in fact, it would demand everything they had. But it gave them something only Jesus could give them. This hasn’t changed. If we want what they received, we must do what they did! 

Bring Your Thinking Cap

Bring Your Thinking Cap

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Word

Gary Pollard

Today’s article may be a little chaotic. It’s about something not well-defined or understood, and its solution is unknown to me. This article will hopefully serve as a target; it’d be good to have lots of Christian minds brainstorming solutions to this issue.

Just about everyone’s had THE virus. I’ve had it once for sure, maybe twice. It don’t mess around. I started developing symptoms after recovery that, apparently, quite a few people have developed. It’s commonly called Long Covid or PASC. Symptoms include fatigue, cognitive difficulties, decreased mobility, respiratory and cardiological issues, pain, malaise, and many others (psu.edu). You probably either know someone dealing with this now, or are dealing with it yourself.

Research is not super easy to get ahold of, and what I could find was either low-quality or not peer reviewed. Its existence isn’t really contested, but little is known about its prevalence. Best I could find was that about 43% of those who recover will experience Long Covid. Many haven’t recovered after almost two years!

My concern with this is its potential effect on faith. Things like driving at night, interacting with lots of people, spending time together outside of worship, church events, service projects, teaching/preaching/song leading, evangelism, etc. are part of our Christian life. While some of these can be difficult on a good day, they’re now practically impossible (or significantly more difficult) for people with Long Covid.

The church has always had members with chronic, debilitating diseases. Normally, our shut-ins are a very small percentage of overall membership. With Long Covid often compared to the effects of chemotherapy, this number is likely to grow significantly. If roughly half of our recovered members end up with these long-term effects, how do we address this?

Since it affects both young adults and senior citizens, how do we navigate its impact? What can members who now have Long Covid do to stay active in their churches? While living with a chronic health condition is no cake walk, those of us who do are at least mentally equipped to accept it. Members who enjoyed good health before Long Covid are struggling to adapt to this change.

At some point in the near-ish future, I hope to write an article with potential solutions. It will be geared toward those who’re experiencing major health issues for the first time. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to do a lot of praying, planning, brainstorming, and creative problem solving. Nothing’s too big for God, and we’ll find a solution with his help.

YOUR JUNK DRAWER

YOUR JUNK DRAWER

 

Sunday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Dale Wiley

 
I read recently that one of the fastest growing business is storage units, closely following the Dollar General Stores. People have more ‘stuff’ than places to put them.
 
In our house, we have storage units we like to call  ‘Junk Drawers’. If we have an unexpected visitor we’ll do a swipe of stuff into the nearest drawer to hide all remnants of our ‘clutter’. I recently performed an ‘uncluttering’ and found some interesting items I forgot still existed. 
 
Items included:
  • 10 old TV remote control batteries that I hoped would regenerate but found that it wasn’t meant to be. 
  • 62 ink pens, each representing one of our many banks in the area. 
  • A 5 year old receipt from Auto Zone on a lawn mower battery with a 24 month guarantee. 
  • Some eclipse glasses from our big one 3 years ago. We have to be ready for the next one.
  • A receipt from Jim Fuqua Appliance Repair dated 1987. Although we don’t have the washing machine and Jim has since retired, a lifetime guarantee was promised and I holding him to it.
  • And finally, a love letter from my fiancé from 1972. After 48 yrs of marriage, She was disappointed to find it was in the junk drawer, but is now happy to have it framed and hanging on our bedroom wall.
 
You know, it’s hard to throw away old stuff and our old ways.
Eph 4:21-24 says to get rid of the Old Self and to put on the New Self.
Col 3:9-10 says to lay aside the Old Self and put on the New Self.
 
It could be that the drawers represent our lives. What we put in the drawers or leave in the drawers is up to us. We have the freedom to fill our lives with ‘junk’ or rubbish or with whatever the world gives us, or we can make sure we put  ‘in the drawer’ The things of Christ. 
 
Paul, in his letter to the church of Ephesus, pointed out some things that may be in the drawers of our lives, that we need to make a conscious decision to avoid, to lay aside, and to clear out. Look to Eph 4:17-32. Especially clear out  deceit, falsehood, anger, unwholesome words, bitterness, wrath, slander, and malice. But what happens if we just clear out the junk and then put the drawers back into the cabinet, empty?  How long will that cabinet stay empty? 
 
A 17th Century philosopher wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in every person that can only be filled by the Creator and He is made known through Jesus Christ”. 
 
So, we just can’t leave the drawers of our lives empty…because something or someone or specifically the devil is always ready to creep in and fill it up again.  First Peter 5:8 reminds us to be vigilant against that adversary waiting to devour us..
 
Find the open, self-explanatory solutions to our ‘Junk Drawer’ dilemma in Col 3, 8-17.
 
  • Verse 8…To put them aside.
  • Verse 10..To put on the new self.
  • Verse 12..have a new heart.
  • Verse 13..To forgive.
  • Verse 15..Let the peace of Christ rule your heart.
  • And especially, “Beyond all things, Put on Love”. The perfect bond of unity, doing all things in the name of The Lord Jesus (Col. 3: 14-17). 
Listen! 

Listen! 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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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

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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.
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BEWARE OF SPIRITUAL ATTRITION

BEWARE OF SPIRITUAL ATTRITION

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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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! 

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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.

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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