The Real Thing

The Real Thing

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

“Let love be genuine.” This phrase from Romans 12.9 is familiar and deceptively simple. It sounds good and feels good! But what does it mean? 

It means we can’t pretend to love people. Ανυποκριτος means “not pretending” or “acting” something. In other words, don’t pretend to love people with the goal of getting something out of it. Don’t pretend to love people when we don’t. 

We don’t usually show our real selves to other people. Aside from our close friends and family, we show other people who we want them to see. There’s nothing wrong with this; all cultures adopt levels of social scripting and behaviors based on how close we are with another person. The church is a family, and it’s hard to remember that sometimes. We’d rather keep people at arm’s length (I’m guilty of this) than get into the messiness of close relationships. 

Once we get past the formal, arm’s length level of closeness, things get complicated and messy. But they’re also rewarding and uplifting! Whatever we see in our Christian family, God expects us to love like we mean it. There’s no room for fake in this family! Since our lifestyle can be challenging, we need to know that we can rely on each other.

God showed us genuine love by proving it. He proves it every day by keeping us “good to go” if we’re walking in light (I Jn 1). Showing real love has personal benefits, sure, but it mainly benefits others. We may never know how much showing genuine love impacts another person, but it could be the pivotal point of their relationship with God! How cool is it that, just by being genuine, we potentially change people’s eternity?! 

The Location Of Salvation

The Location Of Salvation

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Most people can think of a specific location that brings them joy. It could be a vacation destination, a certain getaway spot, or a favorite city or park. It’s a location that is filled with memories and good times. We find ourselves dreaming about those places when we are loaded down with life. What we wouldn’t give to be relaxing on that beach, away from all the work and responsibilities. What is it about these places that causes us to long to be there? It’s the thought of being somewhere that’s free of care and worry. 
In scripture, salvation is often described as being found in a very specific location. The Bible records numerous examples of when God saved His people in a specific location. The Passover in Exodus 12 is an example of this. If the people wanted to keep their firstborn children, they were to spread blood on the doorposts of their homes. By doing this, the death angel would pass over the houses with blood on them. There are several other examples of salvation being in a specific location such as Noah’s ark in Genesis 6-9 and Rahab’s home in Joshua 2.
If salvation was found on the ark and in Rahab’s home, where is it now? Scripture teaches us that the church Christ died to establish is the place of safety today. 

The plan: a new covenant (Mark 14:24)
–The purpose: save the souls that are added to the body (Rom. 8:1-3) 
–The promise: eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11) 

The Old Testament examples mentioned all contained specific instructions: Build the ark out of gopher wood, pick a certain amount of animals, and tie a scarlet rope to the window. These specific locations brought salvation but only through obedience to God and His plan. 
What specific instructions do we have today? The contents of the New Testament explain in perfect detail how we can be added to God’s location of salvation. The ark saved Noah and His family from destruction, the scarlet rope tied to the window of Rahab’s home saved her and her family, and baptism (Acts 2:38; 1 Pt. 3:21) will save anyone and everyone that wishes to be added to the church. 

Why Going To Church Matters

Why Going To Church Matters

 Saturday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

There’s the story told of an elderly lady that was amazed at how nice the young man next door was. Everyday he would help her gather things from her car or help her in her yard. One day the old lady finally asked the young man, “Son, how did you become such a fine person?” The young man replied, “Well, when I was a boy, I had a drug problem.” The old lady was shocked and said, “I can’t believe that.” The young man replied, “It’s true, my parents drug me to church on Sunday morning, drug me to church on Sunday night, and drug me to church on Wednesday night.”
Have you ever paused and thought about why you go to church? What reason causes you to bring your kids to worship? What’s the point? Contained in the pages of God’s Word we can find at least three reasons why we go to church. 

A Past Example

God is a God of remembrance. He would repeatedly instruct, comfort, and encourage the Israelites by reminding them of things He had done in the past. He used reminders of past instances to help motivate His people. God’s Word continues to do that for us today. It is filled with past examples to help remind us why we come together each week. We go to church because of a past example (Acts 2:41-47; Acts 20:7). 

A Present Encouragement 

1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” Hebrews 3:13 says, “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
Each week in the world we may feel outnumbered trying to live a godly life. When we come together we’re reminded that we aren’t the only ones that are trying to be like Christ. William Ward once said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you.” Our present encouragement comes from unity and the sharing we all have with each other. We’re encouraged through fellowship, but also praise. Worship is a time to reflect on God and what He has done for us. We focus on His nature and His love and we praise Him because we are blessed beyond belief. Our present encouragement comes from our time spent praising God our Father. We come to worship to receive our present encouragement.

A Future Event

On February 3, 2018, Robert Meilhammer, 51, of Crapo, Maryland, was struck in the head by a dead Canada goose. The bird that hit him was 14 pounds and had a nearly 6 foot wingspan. It plunged from the sky after a fellow waterfowl hunter fired a blind shot on a flock overhead. The goose fell about 90 feet, knocking the hunter out instantly and causing head and facial injuries. If you could see what was coming you would prepare. If Robert Meilhammer would’ve known about the goose coming he could’ve taken a step forward to keep from getting knocked out. If we knew what was coming, we would prepare. God in his love and grace has revealed what is coming and what needs to be done in order to prepare. We come together to remind each other of the day that is coming in the future. We come together to encourage our church family to fight the good fight, keep the faith, and to stay the course. Mark 16:16 says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” The judgement day is coming and God is clear on what we should be doing. Get prepared and stay prepared by going to church. 
We assemble as a family on the first day of the week because of a past example, a present encouragement, and a future event. 

The God We Serve

The God We Serve

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

25 ways God has shown His love to us: 

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2) 
  2. The Cross (Matthew 27:32-56) 
  3. Salvation (John 3:16) 
  4. The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  5. The Church (Ephesians 2:19-22) 
  6. The Ability To Pray (Philippians 4:6) 
  7. A Caring High Priest (Hebrews 4:15) 
  8. The Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) 
  9. True Peace (Philippians 4:7) 
  10. Purpose (1 Peter 2:9) 
  11. Made Us Alive (Ephesians 2:5) 
  12. Servitude (Matthew 12:18) 
  13. Gave Us An Identity (John 1:12) 
  14. Joy (Proverbs 10:28)
  15. An Example (John 13:1-17) 
  16. Revealed Knowledge (Ephesians 1:17)
  17. Compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) 
  18. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11) 
  19. Strength (Exodus 15:2) 
  20. Good Advice (Matthew 6:34
  21. Takes Our Anxiety (1 Peter 5:7) 
  22. A Refuge (Psalm 46:1) 
  23. A Resurrection (John 11:25) 
  24. A Place Of Rest (Matthew 11:29)
  25. He’s Coming Back (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Jesus Has All Authority

Jesus Has All Authority

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Jesus has come to Jerusalem and taken the gloves off. By His unparalleled authority, He is directly challenging the religious establishment whose shallow righteousness has been rejected by His Father. He has come to take the Old Law out of the way and establish His church. It’s teaching like this parable in Luke 20:9-18 that will provoke those leaders to the point that they will trump up charges and bribe false witnesses to arrest, try, and have Him crucified. This parable is stark and shocking, and the moral as heavy as an anvil. Notice.

THESE LEADERS WERE GUILTY OF IMPROPER STEWARDSHIP (9). The “man” in the parable represents God, the Father. He made Israel a nation and gave the Jews a Law to follow and keep. The Jews, particularly the religious leadership, were entrusted with faithfully carrying it out, but they did not. 

THEY WERE GUILTY OF TAKING WHAT DIDN’T BELONG TO THEM (10). In fact, these leaders–dubbed “the vine-growers” by Jesus in this parable–thought that they were in charge. They sought to make people subject to them, to follow their rules (cf. Rom. 10:3-4). The end result was vain religion (Mat. 15:8-9).

THEY WERE GUILTY OF ABUSING THOSE SENT TO THEM (11-15). The “slaves” sent to them were presumably prophets and teachers, no doubt inclusive of John the Baptist. These were the Father’s spokesmen, come to teach and correct them. Each one sent was treated the same, sad way: they “beat him and sent him away empty-handed.” Last of all, the son was sent (13-14). The “owner” (the Father) sent Him, saying, “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him” (13). Instead, seeing Him as the heir, they plotted to kill Him (14). Obviously, Jesus is referring to Himself and the very thoughts these religious leaders were thinking as He told the parable! 

THEY WERE GUILTY OF LOSING WHAT WAS ENTRUSTED TO THEM (16-18). Instead of being convicted by this parable, these religious leaders recoil at the moral of the parable: “What, then, will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others” (15-16). Their emotion boils over and they audibly reply to Jesus’ parable, “May it never be!” They missed the travesty of the behavior they and their forefathers had shown to God’s messengers and the sin they were about to perpetrate on His Son. They didn’t want to lose their grip on the power and influence they had taken. But Jesus doubles down, changing the imagery from a vineyard to building construction. They were going to reject Jesus, the stone, but He would be made the chief corner stone. He would judge and destroy them, if they did not abandon their rebellion.

Jesus is full of love, kindness, and peace. But, that’s an incomplete picture of Him. He came to establish His rule and reign. He must be King and Lord of our lives. We must submit to His way and truth to enjoy His life. 

Open Bible on a black table with book marker and pink highlighting
Jesus Has All Authority
The Tie That Binds

The Tie That Binds

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

When it comes to the families that make up the church, what ties us together is a common bright future. While every family has its differences, one constant remains— the church. All strive to follow those guidelines laid out in scripture. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “And I’m SURE of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

The writer speaks with assurance and that confidence is well-placed. From His-story we see that God always completes His projects. He never dreams, He creates. He decided to create the world and here it is. He decided to save the world, and here we are. 

Paul also would write in Romans 7-8 that the flesh tends to get in the way of the spiritual. God is perfect, but we’re not. That’s what makes us a work in progress. Aren’t we thankful that God provides the solutions to “fix” us up? 

We’re involved in a great work because there simply is no better work  than what is being done by His church. That being said, many of us struggle with overcomplicating things. We try to make sense of our individual lives, and when we leave God out it all becomes a discouraging battle. Where’s the peace? Joy? Confidence? Maybe it was left behind when we left God’s path. Thankfully God came down to earth years ago to teach us everything we need to know. We see that in His interactions with people. Even His twelve original followers were an odd group. 

Each had a diverse background. Some were Fishermen and some tax collectors. 

Each one had a unique personality too! They ranged from timid to assertive.

Each one had spiritual battles from greed to crippling doubt.  

Yet each one rallied under His leadership and were united through a common hope. 

What’s changed? Not much. 

The personalities, talents, backgrounds, and flaws mixed together create a unique blend that make up each one of us. Yet, here we are rallied under His leadership, united in common hope. 

Members of the church in the Bowling Green area at an FCA fundraiser.
What I Saw On Sunday

What I Saw On Sunday

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

 

Neal Pollard

It was our largest crowd since before the Pandemic. It was a targeted effort to fill the building. The building was full! I asked several how many non-members were present and the most conservative answer was dozens, perhaps fifty. While we know that filling the pews is only one factor in encouraging people to follow Jesus (discipleship), it is a pretty fundamental and important one. Let me share a few exciting things I saw.

I saw the power of an invitation. The elders laid out a challenge to us to invite every non-member we could think of, coworkers, family members, friends, classmates, acquaintances, etc. That’s not revolutionary. Perhaps it was the sheer volume of invitations so many members issued. Such seeds were spread far and wide, and Sunday was an indication that some will come if asked. I am confident that many who were invited will come in the future, if we continue to ask. Philip invited Nathanael to “come and see” (John 1:46), and it changed Nathanael’s life! Andrew told his brother, Peter, “We have found the Christ” (John 1:41)! It changed not just Peter’s life, but the thousands of lives Peter eventually touched. Who knows the eternal impact made by all the invitations issued this weekend, but it shows that there’s still power in a simple invitation!

I saw the strength of teamwork. That was on display in so many ways. There was a huge team of people greeting those who entered our doors. Anticipating a lot of visitors, this was organized beyond the ordinary measure. It was exciting to see so many doing this, and it seemed to be infectious. Others joined in. It was evident in the efforts of multiple deacons and vision groups coordinating various works. It extended to members in the auditorium warmly welcoming unfamiliar faces and making our visitors feel at home. It continued on to the potluck after Bible class with the scores of people bringing an abundance of food, serving, assisting, and cleaning up. We were a finely-tuned machine of coordination. I could not help but think of Paul’s words, to Philippi (“make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose,” 2:2) and Colosse (“beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity,” 3:14). Sure, he had more in mind that one event on one day, but this is a key way such overall unity is built. 

I saw the example of leadership. This began with the eldership. They not only challenged us to invite, they led the way. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that the four of them invited hundreds of people by text, phone, and face-to-face. They invited friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers! True leadership shows the way! This included those who led in worship. There was forethought, effort, and coordination from the greeting to the announcements and every act of worship in between them. This involved the membership who enthusiastically engaged in the worship. It also takes in every one that helped people find bathrooms and classrooms. Leadership always breeds more leadership. The writer of Hebrews says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (13:7). 

I saw the hope of tomorrow. The effects of the last 18-plus months have been deflating and demoralizing. We have lost members to Covid, physically and spiritually. It has derailed plans. It has distracted us. But Sunday showed that by faith in God and by following His plan, the best is yet to be! As we were reminded at the end of the day yesterday afternoon, we have worship every Sunday so let’s keep inviting. How many Bible studies will result from inviting others to church? How many future preachers, elders, deacons, soul-winners, and Bible class teachers are represented in those who walked through our doors yesterday, some for the first time ever? To some degree, we’ve got to be like Paul and say, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13b-14). 

There’s more to do! There’s more inviting to do. There’s more follow up to do. But I see more than a special event in what occurred on Sunday! I see a culture change and a purposed people. Think what God can do with that!

“I Can’t Come To Church Because Of Covid”

“I Can’t Come To Church Because Of Covid”

(Tuesday Supplement. Note: I am well aware that there are those who are immunocompromised and cannot attend. This is not in any way meant to discourage or dishearten those in this condition. God knows and understands.)

Neal Pollard

Covid has touched nearly every family I know, including my own. It would be foolish to say that it is harmless. It has claimed nearly 5 million lives as of today. So, I have heard from many good, thoughtful people, this statement: “I can’t come to church because of Covid.” Please accept that with deep, genuine love, there are a few questions that need to be asked alongside of this.

Are we being consistent? Are we still going to the grocery store, the restaurants, the beauty shop, the office, the classroom, the gym, and the doctor? Chances are at least as great that we will contract Covid in one of those places as at church. People are not more clean or careful in those places. 

Are we properly prioritizing?  Perhaps we see the stores, the job, the school, and the medical as essential and necessary. Jesus puts our spiritual health and that of His body above all else (Mat. 6:33; 16:26). How could we conclude that any of these others are more important than His kingdom?

Are we considering others? Perhaps we console ourselves by saying that we’re getting what we need by watching Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, or wherever services are live-streamed. But, worship and Bible class is not simply about our being fed. We must consider one another to stimulate unto love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). That is said in connection with assembling together (Heb. 10:25), and how is this done by one who stays away from the assembly?

Are we weakening our spiritual strength? Is it getting easier to stay away or opt to just catch it on the phone, computer, or TV when we don’t feel like coming? Are we losing our desire to be with God’s people? Isolation has many effects, some more subtle than others.

Are we assessing our fears? Those who are waiting for Covid to go away will be waiting years or longer. This is a virus. Scientists doubt that it can be eradicated. It spreads too quickly. Perhaps it will be like Polio or smallpox, but how long will that be? Will we stay home for years? Meanwhile, where will be, spiritually, years from now if we have disconnected from our spiritual family? 

After 18 months, perhaps it is time to do some serious reevaluating? Instead of only allowing news outlets to be our guide, we need to balance that with careful study of God’s Word. Instead of considering just this life on earth, we should balance that by considering this life is for preparing for eternity. We need to be back together–all of us, now more than ever. 

“I Wish The Church…”

“I Wish The Church…”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

  • “…Cared More About The Lost!” (But, when did I last invite someone to church or invite someone to study the Bible?)
  • “…Checked On The Sick And Shut In.” (But, when did I last make a call or visit to them?)
  • “…Was Friendly!” (But, do I talk to, welcome, and make feel at home visitors and more than my close circle of friends?)
  • “…Did A Better Job With The Singing.” (But, do I sing out, show enthusiasm, and participate with my whole heart?)
  • “…Invested More In The Youth.” (But, am I doing all I can to help them grow, from my attitude toward the church to my personal investment in them?)
  • “…Was Active!” (But, do I volunteer when help is needed, prioritizing it over the things of the world?)
  • “…Was Growing.” (But, how invested am I in being an ambassador for Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20?)

So often, we talk about “the church” in a passive, third-person way. We are critical of her leaders, her activities (or lack thereof), and her members as if we are detached observers. The picture of the early church was of individuals who were personally invested. We are overcome by the consumer mindset of the culture when we sit back and take shots at the perceived shortcomings of our local congregation. Look at the New Testament Christians. Barnabas didn’t fret about how stingy or discouraging the church was; He was generous and encouraging (Acts 4:36-37). Stephen didn’t express his frustration at the church’s lack of courage and conviction; He literally preached himself to death (Acts 6-7). Dorcas didn’t wring her hands at how uncaring and detached the church was; She continually did deeds of kindness and charity (Acts 9:36). They may have been extraordinary in their actions, but they were just “regular members of the church.” They were the church. They didn’t sit in judgment of her. Why? They were too busy working to build her up. When I am tempted to play armchair analyst, I should begin with my own faithfulness and involvement. There is so much the Lord expects me to do to help the church. My investment may cause others to be grateful and excited to be a part of the church! I can most influence me (2 Cor. 13:5)! 

On January 20, 1961, in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, he uttered the famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Here is the very ending of the address: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” If that is true of a citizen’s mindset of a nation, how much more a Christian’s mindset in that holy nation, the church? 

A Pig In A Dress

A Pig In A Dress

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail 

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Dale Pollard

The Muppets are great. Those classic characters like Kermit the Frog, Animal, and Fozzy Bear have entertained us for years. The writers of that show understood and appreciated the humor found in irony. In one particular episode, Mrs. Piggy is about to marry Kermit and It’s hilarious to see a pig in a wedding dress. Pigs don’t wear dresses…or do they?

The church has been described as the “Bride of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2-3). What kind of bride are we? An ugly bride is not unified, calloused towards one another, hateful, hard hearted, hard headed, and proud. The truth is, an ugly church can only be made up of ugly people. Sin is an ugly thing, and the display and manifestations of sins such as pride and hatred turn even the worldly away.

Think about 1 Peter 3:8-11, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” What we have described and depicted here is an attractive bride. Don’t let your life combined with Jesus be a juxtaposition. Don’t make the Bride of Christ a pig in a dress.