Categories
commitment commonsense correction

So What?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Here’s a quick recap of the bizarre events that unfold in Acts 20:

 

  • Paul preaches past midnight.
  • A young man named Eutychus falls asleep.
  • As a result, he plummets to his death.
  • He is then miraculously brought back to life.

 

 

 

So what?

Each word that was written in Scripture was penned under God’s guidance— for our guidance. This means that even those accounts that might initially strike us as pointless are, in truth, spiritually-pointed.

With this is in mind, let’s briefly examine three life lessons from Eutychus that deliver relevant reminders for the 21st-century Christian.

  1. A lesson on Commonsense: God is with His people. God protects His people, but we still read of a young man who sits where he shouldn’t have. As a result, he tumbles to his death. Unfortunate things can happen to godly people, especially in the absence of commonsense.
  2. A Lesson On Commitment: This account is not a call for preachers to shorten their sermons, or even a warning for members who might be tempted to take a nap in worship. While Eutychus may not be the first guy that comes to mind when we think of a Bible character who demonstrated commitment— he still made it a priority to be with his Christian family. He held on, even though it was clearly past his bedtime. How many of us have stayed away from services simply because we don’t feel like it? How many Christians find themselves struggling to remain focused in a one hour period of worship? There is something to be said for this man’s commitment to Christ— even as the hours ticked by and exhaustion began to take its toll on him.
  3. A Lesson On Correction: Though I would not want to be immortalized in history as the guy who fell out of a window in church, this potential tragedy became a powerful testimony of God’s grace. God does not expect total perfection, but rather our constant correction. When we take a tumble spiritually, what corrections can we implement to avoid the same mistake in the future?

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Categories
commitment religion talents Uncategorized

Be Dependable!

Neal Pollard

One of the hamstrings of most every church is a lack of dependable Christians. When Christians do show themselves undependable, they contribute so much to a church—much frustration, disappointment, and friction. We should all be dependable. You probably know little about Shelemiah, Zadok, Pedaiah and Hanon.  Little is said about them. But listen to what is said.  They were placed in charge of the storehouses because “they were considered reliable” (Neh. 13:13).

What a glowing epitaph. One the other hand, David wrote of some wicked individuals, of whom he said, “There is nothing reliable in what they say” (Psa. 5:9). Too many otherwise good people are leaving such a reputation for themselves. In frustration, sometimes elders may join Solomon in asking, “Who can find a trustworthy man?” (Prov. 20:6). But, good news!  We can all be dependable.  Why?

First, we are ABLE. God blesses us with talents, time, and treasure. With them, we can (as good stewards) use our resources to God’s glory. If something hinders us from doing our duty, we can let others know and cover for us. But, whenever and wherever and however we can, we use ourselves as workers in the kingdom (Mat. 9:37).

Second, we are DEPENDENT. God pours blessings into our lives (Eph. 1:3; Js. 1:17). Without Him, we are nobody! Except God provided all our needs, we would be nowhere and have nothing. We are obligated, and our best efforts could never earn or repay God’s graciousness (Lk. 17:10). But, surely, appreciating His grace, we will be workmen (Eph. 2:8-10). When needs are made known by our elders or other church members—food or teachers or folks to visit or calls to make or new Christians to aid or missions to encourage or elderly, shut-ins to help—let us remember our dependence upon God and be dependable for those dependent folks around us.

Finally, you are thereby DEEPENED. When we do what we can in the kingdom, giving it our best, we are enriched and strengthened thereby. Our relationship with Christ is deepened, for we are imitating Him. Our appreciation for God’s blessings is deepened when we sacrifice and extend ourselves. Our faith is deepened by our interaction with those in need and by our participation in what needs doing. Our joy is deepened by being active and involved in the Lord’s work.

One song in our song book asks, “Can he depend on you?” If He has no hands but our hands to do His work today, shall we allow our hands to sit idle? Christianity is a commitment. It’s a wonderful commitment, but commitment nonetheless. Let us take it seriously and be a brother or sister upon whom our brethren and our God can rely!

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Categories
involvement Uncategorized work

“You’ll End Up Naming Everybody On The Team”

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Neal Pollard

Quirky closer (a redundant statement) Sean Doolittle was interviewed last week right after the Washington Nationals clinched the city’s first trip to the World Series since FDR was first inaugurated there. Asked how they did it, Doolittle said, “I think once you start naming guys that stepped up in different ways, you’ll end up naming everybody on the team. We got so many contributions from different guys who had to embrace new roles. There are so many examples of that up and down this team” (MLB.COM). That’s frequently the testimonial of winners. It takes everybody pitching in and doing their part, All-Stars or role players, starters or reserves, veterans or rookies. However you distinguish between them, each person must step up and successful teams do just that!

Have you thought about how the church was designed to be that way? Congregations successful in executing the mission of Jesus are filled with members who step up in different ways, make contributions, embrace new roles, and exemplify team spirit. Paul tells us that “we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). Notice the all-inclusive wording of Paul, pointing out what Jesus desires for His church. “Grow up in every way…” “From whom the whole body….” “Held together by every joint….” “When each part is working properly….”

God expects each of us to step forward, using our talents, opportunities, financial blessings, influence, time, energy, and intellect to reach lost souls, strengthen the church, and meet needs. A church filled with people stepping up and embracing Christ’s mission will stand out in a community and glorify God. We will grow and be built up. 

In 1895, Vilfredo Pareto observed that society divided into what he called the “vital few” and the “trivial many.” There is a top 20% and a bottom 80%. From such a genesis, we ultimately got the 80/20 rule, that 20% of the people in an organization do 80% of the work (Explained here: FORBES.COM). Maybe, we’ve heard that so much that we’ve just resigned ourselves to it being a universal truth. Do not be content until you discuss the growth and work of this church, and by the time you’re done “you’ll end up naming everybody on the team.” That’s the goal! Let’s pursue it!

 

Categories
conflict marriage Uncategorized

Marriages Secretly In Trouble

Neal Pollard

Social media has done us no favors, with the temptation it presents to project happiness and perfection while masking the trials and challenges inevitable for such a long-term commitment as marriage is. Not only can we be guilty of misrepresenting our own relationship, but we can unwittingly put pressure on other couples who see these projections and increase dissatisfaction with their less than perfect and happy marriage. Of course, the answer to this is not to use forums like social media to air the sordid stains on our life’s laundry. But, there is a need for some reasoning and common sense that can assist us in building better marriages.

The University of Wyoming’s Family And Consumer Sciences department has an excellent study by Ben Silliman entitled, “Intimacy Means Conflict.” They begin with a profound, if provocative, statement, saying, “To love may not mean to fight, but it does mean to become close, to care a lot, and eventually to discover differences and disagreements. Those who love much have a better chance of conflict” (click here). This great study includes some common sense suggestions for working through the conflict:

  • Focus on needs, not solutions.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Choose the best option. 
  • Make a plan.
  • Implement the plan. 
  • Seek feedback and evaluate both the process and the outcome (ibid.).

He does not overtly come from a biblical worldview. He is not exclusively focused on monogamous marriage relationships. But his counsel is sound and consistent with biblical principles.  Cross-check each of his suggestions with Scriptural guidance:

  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9
  • 1 Corinthians 10:23
  • Proverbs 16:3
  • Psalm 37:5
  • 1 Peter 3:7; James 3:17

The passages represent that the Bible talks about all these methods and approaches, but it does not suggest that this is all the Bible has to say about these. I am convinced the devil would love nothing more than for married couples, beset by conflict and even repeatedly addressing the same issue or issues, to just give up on their marriages. Wouldn’t he love for us to be convinced that we’re the only ones struggling and our situations are hopeless? I know such thoughts are not of God, who urges us to see possibilities even through improbabilities because of His capabilities (Phil. 4:13). 

It’s fatal to a marriage to ignore or be in denial about the things that produce conflict. And it’s foolish to believe that a marriage is doomed because conflict is present. There is no way to achieve closer relationships without negotiating the unavoidable differences between two individuals striving to be a united couple. May I encourage all of us who are married to redouble our commitment to working through conflict in order to reach closer, Christ-centered relationships. 

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Categories
commitment Uncategorized

“EVERYBODY WANTS TO BE A PART OF THE TEAM”

Neal Pollard

As I committed Georgia Bulldogs fan, I grimace to share this. But, Alabama head coach Nick Saban had a great quote in reaction to the student section leaving the Crimson Tide games early. I’ll quote the second part:

“If I asked that whole student section, do you want to be No. 1? Nobody would hold their hand up and say I want to be No. 4. They would all say No. 1. But are they willing to do everything to be No. 1? That’s another question. You can ask them that. I don’t know the answer” (via Saturday Football, Inc.).

With Alabama’s unprecedented success in the last decade, they’ve drawn the best High School players in the nation and they continue to develop them into seemingly unbeatable teams. Current students and those who have graduated for the last several years have just come to expect that on every given Saturday their team will win. They probably tell all their family and friends with swelling pride that they are part of Tide Nation, but for many of them game day has turned into a “ho hum” experience. Winning may not get old, but staying passionate about it must have gotten hard.

When the church is growing, making a difference and daring great things, it draws a lot of excitement. People are drawn to the active youth program, the decisive direction of sound leadership, vibrant worship, big plans, and ministries that meet pressing needs. There may be a tendency to tell everyone how great the congregation is without being very committed personally. We may show up on Sunday mornings, but not for Sunday and Wednesday nights. We may love all that is going on, but feel that affection from a distance instead of from in the midst with sleeves rolled up and hands busy helping. 

The early church was totally invested. The lot of them was “continually devoted…” (Acts 2:42). Their dedication was even measured “day by day” (Acts 2:46) and “every day” (Acts 5:42). In fact, Luke describes them as “of one heart and one soul” in their commitment (Acts 4:32). This contributed to even greater success, numerically and spiritually. Through this personal commitment, they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6, ESV). 

I need to ask myself, “Am I willing to do everything to make the congregation I am a member of ‘number one’ in God’s eyes?” Will I do more occupy a pew for an hour? I know God wants me much more invested than that! There are visitors, shut-ins, sick, college students, teens, new Christians, erring Christians, non-members I can influence, and others who can be reached by members who see themselves as truly part of the team. Paul wrote, “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). Let’s have every individual part working properly to build a great church to the glory of the great God who loves us and gave the very best for us!

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Categories
Christian living Christianity New Testament Christianity Uncategorized

What’s The Point?

Neal Pollard

Years ago, Wes Autrey sent me a copy of the “Idiot Report.” To this day, I still wonder why he thought of me as he read something with that title. I found all the entries hilarious, but one attributed to a Wichita probation officer was particularly funny. This august report said, “the stoplight on the corner buzzes when it’s safe to cross the street. I was crossing with one of my coworkers, who asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, “What on earth are blind people doing driving?” Hopefully, you get where she missed the purpose of the corner buzzer. If not…

How many miss the point of Christianity? The decision to become a Christian is the best and most important decision this side of time. Living the Christian life is the best life to live. Worshipping the living God is a privilege that is awe-inspiring and of unsurpassed joy. Prayer is a lifeline without which none of us should feel equipped. Bible study with an eye toward applying its truths is vital to growing stronger and closer to God.

To go through life as a Christian filled with fear, sadness, anxiety, envy, anger, apathy or resentment really misses the point of what it means to be in Christ. That does not mean that we will automatically be immune from any of these feelings and attitudes. In fact, all of us will be confronted by them throughout life. But, if we spend a lifetime given in to these things, we have missed the point! Being in Christ means having the only true access to courage, happiness, trust, satisfaction, peace, zeal and acceptance that there is. We could go so many places in the New Testament which affirm this, but just look at Ephesians one. In Christ are the faithful saints (1:1), every spiritual blessing (1:3), election (1:4), grace (1:6), redemption (1:7), all-sufficiency (1:10), hope (1:12), the seal of the Holy Spirit (1:13), and strength (1:19-20). We have a forgotten past, a purposeful present, and a hopeful future in Christ!

The world’s values and thinking are backward (cf. Isa. 5:20). Do not fall prey to their convoluted way of thinking. We are Christians! We know why we are here and where we are going! That’s the point!

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Categories
commitment passion Uncategorized zeal

Lessons Learned At The Stadium

Neal Pollard

Corey Sawyers and I decided a few weeks back to go to the Georgia-Tennessee game at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Georgia, this past Saturday. Thanks to various reward programs and good deals, we were each able to do it all for less than a discount airfare. We were gone about 24, action-packed hours. We even were able to connect with the Shillidays, who had the same idea as us and made the trip from Colorado to Georgia. It was a lot of fun and we made some great memories. While there, especially in the several hours we were at the stadium, several things occurred to me that I would like to share.

  • People get emotionally invested and passionate about what they love.
  • Diverse individuals can unite around a common cause.
  • We sacrifice (time, inconvenience, effort, money, and voice) for what we truly care about.
  • We can be bold enough (vocally and visually) to let everyone know where we stand.
  • We may be too quick to forget past successes, but we’re also quick to forget past failures. 
  • With sufficient interest, we can endure discomfort (backless seats, extreme heat and humidity, and no elbow room).
  • We do not let lack of knowledge or understanding of a subject (like the rules and strategy of college football) to keep us from speaking up.
  • We tend to be proud of our history and heritage (coaches, players, broadcasters, past seasons), feeling a sense of connection or belonging through it.
  • Despite aforementioned unpleasantries and sacrifices, most remain willing to do it again in the future. 
  • We can quickly build a bond with likeminded people, even strangers, out of a common love.

It’s easy to see the comparisons and contrasts between our Saturday experience and trying to be a Christian in our world today. Obviously, I am not disparaging going to ballgames and having a good time. It’s great fun! But, it always reminds me of my need to exhibit greater commitment and zeal for the only thing that matters eternally. My prayer is that, in every way it can be measured, my heart, mind, soul, and strength will be most invested in loving the Lord, His church, and the lost. It also makes me aware of the vast potential in every person, properly directed, to seek first the Kingdom of God! How many, adequately exposed to God’s will and His offer of salvation, will wholeheartedly embrace and share it? Seemingly, the numbers are staggering! May we be enthusiastically about the Lord’s business. 

Bear Valley at Sanford Stadium
Bear Valley crew at Sanford Stadium shortly before kickoff.
Categories
commitment dedication faithfulness poetry Uncategorized

A Proverb To Ponder

Neal Pollard

Now, not all our attenders are members,
And not all our members are attenders,
But if all our attenders were members,
And all our members were attenders

THEN…

We’d have more trouble menders,
More gospel defenders,
And more true soul-winners!

BUT…

We’d have fewer people offenders,
Fewer spiritual hinderers,
And fewer religious pretenders!

SO…

Let us all render a more tender surrender
To the Commander of a love full of splendor!
As we meander on this earth full of sinners,
Let us engender a life with the Lord at the center.

Categories
church church (nature) church attendance church growth church of Christ evangelism Uncategorized

Dying Villages (And Dying Churches)

Neal Pollard

Liza Zhakova and Dima Zharov have written an extensive expose of a phenomenon I was totally unaware of—the depopulation of villages throughout the Kostroma region northeast of Moscow, Russia. 200 villages have been abandoned and 20,000 villages have faded away, a remarkable, mystifying fact for a vast region—it counts merely “660,000 residents for its 23,000 square miles” (source). Factors contributing to this include “low living standards, high unemployment, and a lack of housing and public services” (ibid.).  The ones who have remained are an odd assortment who either prefer isolation or cannot see another way.

Appreciation for salvation, the power of the gospel and the beautiful simplicity of the restoration plea, the exalted mission of the church, and much more should cause the church to spread and grow across the nation and throughout the world despite the opposition of the darkest forces against it. But, especially in America, the statistics show a decline in total number of members even as the nation’s population rises. Last Spring, Christian Chronicle reported that over 100,000 fewer souls were members of the church in 2015 than in 1990 (source). The United States’ net population increase over that period was 70 million (source). My experience in visiting churches in various parts of the country and in visiting with brethren from all over is that most churches are not experiencing growth. Some have seen an increase in attendance, almost always as the result of transfer from other congregations (over doctrinal issues, lack of resources and activities, or even churches that have to close their doors). But instances of churches that are taking the gospel into their communities and winning souls should, per the factors cited above, have us growing like wildfire.  In especially “mission fields” and rural areas, the church is often fighting for survival. My parents and brother, for example, work in a ministry called Carolina Outreach. Through their exposure to churches in the Carolinas, they witness and work with tiny congregations fighting to keep their doors open. They lack funds and workers to get the gospel to the souls in need of the truth in that part of this nation. I have spent over 20 years as a local preacher in states that are typically considered a mission field, outside of the traditional “Bible Belt” (i.e., Virginia and Colorado). In these and surrounding states, I have been saddened to hear about churches closing their doors or simply fighting just to “keep their doors open.”

As the Lord looks down at these shrinking parts of His glorious body, His heart must be breaking. Yet, He gave us the blueprint to address this problem and to reverse this trend when He gave us the New Testament. It is not more vibrant youth programs. These are wonderful and beneficial, but many of us faithful to Christ today grew up in small churches with virtually non-existent youth programs (including Kathy and me). It is not big, beautiful buildings. These can at times cause more problems than not. It is not extremism, whether to the right or the left. Building on the foundation of man is sand (Mat. 7:24-27). It is a resource available to everyone, in rural and urban areas, in depressed or booming economies, in north, south, east or west. In a word, it is “commitment.” The first commentary on the first church begins, “They were continually devoting themselves…” (Acts 2:42). Christianity meant everything to them in their daily lives. They were dedicated to seeking the lost, dedicated to helping each other, dedicated to following their Lord and Savior. They were dedicated in prosperous and perilous times. Their living hope was so strong (1 Pet. 1:3), they persisted even in dire persecution (see the rest of 1 Peter).

What a challenge this is to me. My dedication and commitment has room to grow. My complacency and apathy must decrease and His importance in my life must increase. If the church all over catches hold of this, the familiar phenomenon of “dying churches” will be a bad memory. May God grant us the strength and courage to reverse this tragic trend. May it begin with me!

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Categories
cross crucifixion suffering Uncategorized

The Suffering Of Jesus And Commitment

Neal Pollard

Jesus died an awful death. Ruthless assassins, terrorists, sadistic and serial killers, savage and perverted criminals have all received much more humane treatment than He received that day. What Jesus endured at the cross can only be described as vicious. Consider the violent aspects of His crucifixion.

There was physical torture. He was scourged, beaten with a jagged whip (Mat. 27:27). He was fitted with a crown of thorns (Mat. 27:29). He was hit on the head repeatedly with a staff (Mat. 27:30). The soldiers struck Him with their hands (John 19:3). He carried His heavy cross until it fell on Him (John 19:17). He was nailed to that cross (John 20:25).

There was mental anguish. His countrymen hatefully yelled for His death (Mat. 27:25). Soldiers mocked Him and pretended to worship Him (Mat. 27:29). People hurled abuse at Him (Mat. 27:39,40). Religious leaders mocked Him (Mat. 27:44). The Heavenly Father left Him alone (Mat. 27:46). His disciples followed Him, mourning and wailing (Luke 23:37). Earlier, all His disciples forsook Him and fled (Mark 14:50).

There was social embarrassment. They stripped Him (Mat. 27:25). He was spit upon (Mat. 27:30). The soldiers gambled for His clothes (Mat. 27:35). He was watched like a sideshow (Mat. 27:36). They jokingly put an elegant, purple robe on Him (Luke 23:11). He endured great shame (Heb. 12:2).

The sheer brutality of the crucifixion tells one how serious sin is! The proposal from heaven is, “Stop sinning and serve the Savior!” In the light of the cross, examine Heaven’s every demand, command, and reprimand. What expectation from the Father or requirement from the Son is too great? Before answering, look back at the cross!

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