Praise The Lord!

Praise The Lord!

Neal Pollard

Your version may use the word “hallelujah” to begin Psalm 135. Hallelujah means “praise the Lord.” While it is synonymous with giving thanks, it means to laud a superior quality or act, to acclaim and express joy in doing so. What is so noteworthy is that the psalmist does this in very specific ways, recounting times in history when God demonstrates His power and glory on behalf of His people. As we walk through the psalm, we see this. Why is He to be praised?

  • HIS CHOOSING OF HIS PEOPLE (4)
  • HIS NATURE (5)–Great, Above All
  • HIS WORK IN CREATION (6-7)–Heaven, Earth, Seas, All Deep, Vapors, Lightning, Wind, Rain
  • HIS DEFEATING OF THEIR ENEMIES (8-11)–Egypt, Amorites, Canaanites
  • HIS BLESSINGS (12)–Gave His People A Heritage (Possession)
  • HIS POWER (13)–His Name And Remembrance
  • HIS PROMISES (14)–Compassionate Judgment
  • HIS SUPERIORITY OVER HIS RIVALS (15-18)–Deaf, Dumb, And Blind Idols, Just Like Humans

The writer calls on God’s people to praise and worship Him in song, expressing their adoration (1-3). He ends with a threefold call to “bless the Lord” (19-21). May I suggest that you work through something both in your daily life and in your preparation before every time you assemble to worship? Call it setting the table for fellowship with the Divine. Either meditate on the specific works and ways of God that are worthy of admiration, praise and honor or pray to Him, expressing these matters in specific terms. Focus on how He’s demonstrated greatness in blessing your life and the lives of those around you. Perhaps it’s answered prayer, providence, deliverance, or relief. Focus on His power and might in the affairs of our nation, in the activities of our congregation, and the occurrences within your family and personal life. Let the worship flow as you look around at all you see in nature, from the universe to right out your window. Think about the gift of Jesus for your sins. All of this will surely cause you to echo the writer in Psalm 135 and call out to others, “Praise the Lord!”

Photo credit: Kathy Pollard
Ascending Hearts And Hills

Ascending Hearts And Hills

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

Fifteen consecutive psalms (120-134) are so-called “Psalms of Ascent.” They were given this name because they were songs designated for the Israelites to sing on their way to worship in Jerusalem. Moses had instructed them at the giving of the Old Law, “For I will drive out nations before you and enlarge your borders, and no man shall covet your land when you go up three times a year to appear before the Lord your God” (Ex. 34:34). You can imagine how especially those who came a long distance to Jerusalem (it’s over 100 miles from Mt. Hermon and Beersheba, for example) might benefit from a reminder of why they were making this lengthy journey. As most would walk, this would help pass the time while preparing their minds. This is not a bad idea for us even on a 10 or 20 minute drive to the church building on Sunday morning. 

There is quite a bit of uneven terrain, mountains and valleys, in the area around Jerusalem, and the temple required a steep climb as there were three valleys surrounding Mount Zion and the temple complex. So, people coming from every direction would have to “go up to Jerusalem” (Zech. 14:17; John 2:13; 5:1). But, it was more than a physical ascent, this trip to the temple. It was more significantly a spiritual ascent, an effort to get closer to God. While we can and should draw near to God daily in our personal devotion, there is still great significance and benefit when we join each other in the presence of God to worship Him and fellowship with Him and each other (Heb. 10:24-25). Each time, this should be an ascent for us! 

Notice the repetitive use of “will” in Psalm 121. The word is used eight times in these eight verses. The word points to the future and indicates either anticipation or trust. The writer is confident, especially of what he expects God will do. Such assurance had to take his heart higher!

I WILL LIFT UP MY EYES TO HIM (1)

He starts with what he will do. The writer will look up to God, seeking help and strength. A heart ready to worship is one who sees things as they really are. I am spiritually destitute and needy, and I depend on God for everything. When that is my mindset, I am prepared to praise, thank, and petition Him!

GOD WILL HELP ME (1-2)

Whatever problems, distractions, struggles, and temptations are weighing me down and wearing me down, God will help me! His power is proven. Just look at the creation (2). He has not lost an ounce of strength from that moment to now.

GOD WILL NOT LET ME FALL (3)

The terrain around Jerusalem is often rocky and uneven. I suppose it is easy for anyone’s foot to slip on those roads up to the holy city. But, spiritually, it is a different matter. If I fall, it will not be God’s fault (John 10:27-29). If I hold to God’s unchanging hand, I will successfully complete my journey.

GOD WILL NOT FALL ASLEEP ON THE JOB (3-4)

Night and day, moment by moment, God is alert. He sees everything I do and everything that is done to me. How comforting to know that the All-seeing eye never droops or closes. He does not nod off, even for a moment. 

GOD WILL GUARD AND PROTECT ME (5-8)

Half of this psalm is devoted to this idea. God is not just passively involved, watching me. He is actively involved, keeping me (5,7), providing me shade (5-6), protecting me (7), and guarding me (8). Our God is not inanimate! He is involved! It is why we pray. It is why we trust in His providence. It is why we serve and obey Him. As we love to sing, “There is a God! He is alive. In Him we live and we survive.” The writer of Hebrews quotes three Old Testament passages (Deut. 31:6; Josh. 1:5; Psa. 118:6) to convey two promises: “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” (13:5-6). 

When you enter to worship, enter with the heart and faith of the righteous pilgrims on their way to the temple for one of the annual festivals. Come with your heart ready, and come with a heart full of faith and trust in the object of your worship. You will leave rejuvenated and resolved.

Bragging On The Shepherd

Bragging On The Shepherd

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image-e1601983688162

Dale Pollard

 
Have you ever been in the habit of praying the same prayer over and over again?
You’ve said that prayer as a child and it’s so familiar to you that it just rolls off the tongue. It can seem robotic and maybe this is how we read Psalm 23.
 
Many of us know this Psalm and can quote it quickly— the words fly past our lips. The author, David, practically writes this Psalm like a young boy bragging about how awesome his Father is. Let’s look at this Psalm from his perspective.
 
He says that the Shepherd is always there to protect him, lead him, restore him, and He’s concerned with his needs. He’s nothing without God, and God inspires David to articulate his view of Him.
 
Do we think of God in this way? Some might feel ashamed of Him because standing  up for Christ means saying something or doing something that makes us uncomfortable from time to time. You don’t see that in David. He’s bursting with pride because to him that relationship with the Shepherd is like no other. Today let’s humbly bow in thanksgiving and praise the perfect shepherd.
What Makes A Fool Tick?

What Makes A Fool Tick?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image-e1601983688162

Dale Pollard

A qualified fool is someone who lacks wisdom and also tends to have an embarrassing lack of common sense. In the ancient past, being called a fool held a lot of weight and it wasn’t something that was taken lightly. There’s a healthy emphasis placed on the fool throughout the Psalms and Proverbs, and his time in the spotlight is far from flattering. He’s often in sharp contrast to the wise and intelligent person. What may cause some of these passages to sting in a personal kind of way is when they reflect our own actions or inclinations.

Psalm 14 begins stating, “The fool has said in his heart ‘there is no God.’” Today the atheistic minds that fill the rolls of teachers, scientists, and authors are held in high regard. To some they are seen as the “brains of society” and the pioneers of the future. Evolutionary doctrine may dominate the classrooms and laboratories, but God calls them foolish. They are not “progressive” or “admirable” because they’ve missed or rejected something crucial. The one that denies the existence of a God that they are surrounded by, alive because of, and will be judged by— is the fool. David goes on to state in the same Psalm how God had looked down on the earth to see if anyone had been seeking after Him. When God looks down on our lives what does He see? 

Maybe you would never audibly state, “I don’t believe in God!” But we can’t forget that our repetitive actions are those true statements that tell the world what we believe. 

Our God Is An Awesome God!

Our God Is An Awesome God!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Are there songs that really pump you up in your faith? While there are several that strike that chord in me, none do that more than the song, “Our God is an awesome God.” I know the melody helps, but just that short, sweet, and profound reminder puts wind in my spiritual sails. It reminds me that I can overcome because of who He is.

Psalm 104 is a much more detailed, exhaustive song that lays out how “very great” our God is. It is exciting to think about who we are serving, and sobering to think of the cost of rejecting Him. Look at the awesomeness of God.

LOOK UP (1-4)

My boys call me “sky guy.” I am known to take some pictures of sunrises, sunsets, and skies in general. I remember a night at the Ngorogoro Crater with our oldest son, Gary, when the sky looked, as the late Andrew Connelly once described it, like diamonds laying on black velvet. I remember looking over the Caribbean Sea with Kathy in Cozumel, Mexico, with the moon above us and reflected in the water as yellow as gold. But, I get the same sense on many nights when I cut off the porch light and walk out my front door. God did that!

God’s garments are splendor, majesty, and light (1-2). He stretches out heaven like a curtain, rides the clouds, and walks on the wings of the wind (2-4). How can anyone look up and fail to see God?

LOOK AROUND (5-23)

Where is the most beautiful place on earth? Often, we could say it is wherever we are at the moment. Creation’s beauty is so diverse and its complexity is so incredible. Look at its order and durability (5). Think back to how He changed it all through the flood, using water to raise up mountains, form valleys, and then prevent it from ever happening like that again (6-9; Gen. 9:11). Look at how he sustains us and all creation with water (10-11,16), food (13-15), habitat (12,17-18), seasons (19), and daylight and darkness (19-23). The earth is full of His possessions (24), the sea (25), animals (25), the sea and its wonders (26). He sustains and provides and He shows His power (27-30). On the first hike my family ever took as residents of Colorado, in Rocky Mountain National Park, we met a young woman on a trail. We had in common the fact that we had all just moved there from out of state.  We told her why we had moved, to work with the church in Denver. She, though very polite, said that she moved out there to get away from God. We were all standing, facing such incredible grandeur, and I thought, “Good luck with that!” Where do you go to get away from God when His fingerprints are everywhere? 

LOOK BEYOND (31-32)

As the psalmist begins to wrap up this tribute to God’s awesomeness, he speaks of God’s unlimited power. He makes earth tremble and mountains smoke (32). It gives Him glory and gladness (31). Really, this point is made throughout the entire psalm. Everything we see is a reflection of the One who is above all, through all, and in all (Eph. 4:6). 

LOOK WITHIN (33-35)

In a psalm paying tribute to creation, what should be my response? How should it change and shape me? I will sing to Him as long as I am (33). I will meditate about Him (34). I will be glad in Him (34). I will follow Him, knowing what awaits the sinner and the wicked (35). Listen to the psalmist’s summary: “Bless the Lord, O my soul. Praise the Lord!”  What I see above, around, and within me should melt my heart in praise. It should leave me singing every day, “Our God is an awesome God!”

(taken near the summit of Torrey’s Peak, 2018)
Make Like A Tree And “Leaf”

Make Like A Tree And “Leaf”

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

The Redwood National Park in California is home to the world’s tallest tree. Standing at over 380 feet tall this tree is incredible to look at. The California Redwood is estimated to be able to reach a staggering 425 feet in its lifetime. It continues to grow all its life and there’s a reason it gets so tall, as the lifespan of this tree is up to 2,200 years. Think about that! There are redwood trees that are still growing today that were planted 200 years before Christ was born.
The California Redwood is massive. It is over 29 feet in diameter and has a root system that spreads over three miles underground. These trees are truly incredible. But like most trees, the key to their growth is water. California redwoods consume over 56,000 gallons of water each year or 150 gallons of water each day!
 
In Psalm 1:1, we are given this description: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers.” This person is blessed when they avoid the progression of sin. Notice how the psalmist describes the progression:
 
  • Walk not in the counsel of the wicked.
  • Nor Stands in the way of sinners.
  • Nor Sit in the seat of the scoffers.
 
These steps illustrate what people do when they are tempted by sin. They walk among it, noticing the wicked and their deeds. Once they walk among it, their curiosity gets the best of them and they begin to pause and spend time in the presence of sinners. Finally they are fully drawn into sin and they sit down and practice the evil that they have observed.
 
Rather than walking, standing and sitting with sinners, the righteous man delights in the law of the Lord. Verse two says, “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” The choice is obvious for the righteous man. He avoids the sin and chooses the Word of God over anything else.
 
Verse three reads, “He is like a tree that is planted by the waters that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither, in all he does he prospers.” The source of life for this tree is water. Just like the California Redwood needs water in order to grow, the saved man spends his time next to the source of life. What is this water? John 4:14 reveals, “But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” For the Christian, our source of life comes from Christ. We are able to grow and thrive on the words of God.
 
Let’s make the decision daily to be firmly planted in the words of life. That way, we too can be counted as righteous!
General Sherman (Sequoia National Park)
The Law Of The Lord

The Law Of The Lord

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

IMG_0806

Carl Pollard

How much does your Bible mean to you? Each time we pick it up and read from its pages, we are reading the very words of God. God has revealed His Character, His will, and His love through inspired men. Each time we open our Bibles we are seeing the mind of God. 

What an awe inspiring fact to think about.

We aren’t the first ones to feel this way.

In response to the perfect Law of God, David wrote Psalm 19. It is a tribute to the perfection of scripture. As we read through this chapter, David puts into words these feelings of awe and gratitude.

He begins by stating a fact that has always been true.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”

In a psalm dedicated to the perfect Law of the Lord, David starts by praising the Author. The God of creation, who can be seen in every aspect of our world, is the One responsible for writing such a perfect book. We can look around and the world declares the glory of God. The Author of life itself gave us a book that leads to eternal life.

In verse 7 David describes the Law of the Lord as being perfect. Notice what this perfect Law does for us: it “revives the soul.” The words of God are sure and steadfast. They are truly perfect and are ever relevant to us, His creation.

We continue reading and he goes on to say that God’s Word:

  1. Gives us wisdom (wisdom we would otherwise never have)
  2. Is always right (there is no doubting, thinking that they might be wrong)
  3. His commandments are pure (no false motive)
  4. His word enlightens our eyes (we can now see the truth)
  5. His rules are true
  6. His word is righteous

With such a perfect Law, it is only natural that we should desire it more than Gold.
David says in verse 10 that the words we read in scripture are “sweeter than honey.”
His response to God’s word should be every Christian’s response. We should value and cherish God’s perfect Law.

The Bible is a blessing like no other. In its pages we are warned about the things we should avoid. By keeping His commands we receive a great reward. Psalm 19 is a beautiful tribute to a beautiful book.

With these facts in mind, how much does God’s book mean to you?

My Mouth’s Motivation

My Mouth’s Motivation

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

In Psalm 19:14 David says, “may the words of my mouth be acceptable in your sight.” In the previous verses of this chapter David writes about the perfect law of the Lord. Moved by the knowledge that the author of scripture is God almighty, David hopes that the words he speaks would be impacted by his knowledge of the Law. This is something we must long for as Christians. We know who the author of the Bible is, we understand the way we are called to live and speak, and that should influence our words. The Bible is very clear on how we are to speak.

Our words are a direct reflection of our faith. James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” Do we call ourselves Christians but fail to control our words? James would say we are deceiving ourselves. Our speech is directly impacted by our religion. Our faith should change our speech and make it stand out from the world.

The Bible also gives us a very sobering warning in Matthew 12:36. Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” On that day will we find justification or condemnation from the words we have spoken? We should use this knowledge to help guard our speech.

Scripture also tells us in Luke 6:45 that, “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” We can know the condition of our hearts by what is contained in our words.

Our tongue has a way of getting us in trouble. Ever heard the saying, “keep your words soft and sweet because you never know when you may have to eat them”?We can do a lot of damage if we aren’t careful. On every car there’s this handy little device called a fuel filter. A fuel filter is in between your car’s engine and the gas tank. Its job is to keep all the sediment and dirt that accumulates in the gas tank over time from getting to the engine. Basically it keeps impurities from destroying your engine. Our words need a fuel filter between the mind and the mouth. Think about what we are about to say. Is it impure or harmful in any way? Then don’t say it.

President Calvin Coolidge was famously known as a man of few words. His nickname was “Silent Cal.” His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, told the story of a young woman who sat next to her husband at a dinner party. She told Coolidge she had a bet with a friend that she could get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at her he quietly retorted, “You lose.” Coolidge understood very well the value of using only carefully considered words—and those being few in number. We filter our words and carefully choose them because like David, we understand who we belong to when we are Christians. God now owns our words and we use them to glorify Him in everything.

Psalm 19 is a beautiful tribute to the perfection of Scripture. Like David, each one of us should strive to let God’s word motivate us to live more like Christ in every way.

MAKING PLANS FOR OUR OWN FUNERAL

MAKING PLANS FOR OUR OWN FUNERAL

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

Recently I attended the funeral of a loving and godly mother. She was celebrated and greatly mourned over by her family and friends. As the funeral service went on there were memories that were brought up that made the audience laugh and cry, even those that didn’t know her all that well. How we are remembered in life is dictated not by a single day or moment, but how the life was spent overall. This concept should be one that we make a conscious effort to visit often. There’s a great question that every Christian should know the answer to. 

What does it mean to be a person after God’s own heart? 

According to Nathan the prophet, David was “the man”! Today we use that term when we are complementing one who has shown himself to be an overachiever or is excellent in some way. When Nathan said this to David, however, he was speaking on behalf of the king’s King. Nathan was accusing David of a great wickedness. 

That being said, David was remembered at the end of his life as someone who chased the heart of God. The Lord was his passion and his pursuit in life. He wanted to see through the eyes of God, follow in the steps of God, and mold himself into a tool that accomplished a will higher than his own. His life is summed up well in a single verse. 

“For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite” ( 1 Kings 15:5). 

This verse does not indicate that David was only guilty of one sin while on this earth. It wasn’t that David stumbled and continued on the path of righteousness, but instead there was a season in his life where he completely abandoned God. He gave up the path of light for one of darkness. After Nathan boldly confronts him, he is reminded of his inward allegiance to his God and he changed his course of direction. David lost his son as a consequence. Another son rebels against him. His kingdom is no longer as peaceful as it once was and at the end of his life he sits on his throne as a weary and restless ruler. Even so, despite the darkness on all sides, he chose to stay in the light. 

In the end he wasn’t remembered as the “adulterous murderer.” He is praised for being Israel’s greatest king because he had a heart that mimicked the king of Kings. Let’s make our plans to be remembered as people who chased after the heart of God. 

David’s Year Away From God

David’s Year Away From God

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

carl-pic

Carl Pollard

 
“You’re the man” is what we say when someone comes through for us. It’s used as a compliment that helps us convey our gratitude. “You’re the man” means that the person you’re saying it to deserves to be praised for what they’ve done or will do. We find this same phrase in scripture, but it’s used in a completely different manner.
 
David was a man after God’s own heart, but he was still a man. He made mistakes and sometimes failed to live the way he should. There’s one instance in his life that we are all familiar with. 2 Samuel 11 records for us the time David committed adultery with Bathsheba and got her pregnant. In order to cover his tracks he had her husband killed. Chapter 11 ends with Bathsheba crying over her husband’s death, while David waits for her to get over it so he can move her into his house.
 
This chain of sins committed by David creates a rift in his relationship with God. The last phrase we read in chapter 11 is that “the things that David had done displeased the Lord.”
 
What I find interesting is that God doesn’t immediately punish David. He didn’t do anything when David first slept with her, He didn’t do anything when David killed her husband, and God didn’t punish him when he bore a son with Bathsheba. For what appears to be about a year, David seems to live without any consequences for his sins. But this lack of immediate punishment didn’t mean that God was overlooking David’s sin. Rather, God had a plan that we read of in chapter 12.
 
David found himself in a place that he wasn’t normally in. For a year he wasn’t a man after God’s own heart, but his own heart. For 12 months David didn’t walk with God, rather, he walked away. For 365 days David was no longer a friend of God, he was an enemy. Think about what was going through his head. He had sinned, and he knew it. After David spends a year living with the sin he had committed, God comes to him with a message. It is a message that is summarized with only four words: “YOU ARE THE MAN.”
 
From 2 Sam. 11:27-12:1, there seems to be a gap of about 12 months, a time where nothing is said about the sin David just committed. Just because nothing was said doesn’t mean everything was normal. After the awful sins David committed, God was silent. Why? I believe it was for two reasons:
 
  1. So that David could think on his sinful actions. Think about what was going on in his head. He had to live with the guilt of sleeping with another man’s wife and then killing her husband in secret. Every time David looked into the eyes of Bathsheba he was reminded. No one knew except David and Joab (the one David used to get Uriah killed in battle). After the sins were committed, David was left to think about his sin and David knew that God knew. He lived for a year knowing that God didn’t approve and was angry with him. God was silent so that the noise in David’s head could be heard.
  2. So that David would truly feel and experience the burden of his actions. Psalm 32 and 51 were both written after David had confessed his sin, but he writes about what his life was like (Psa. 32:3-4; 51:12). David was eaten up with guilt. He carried a weight that was destroying him and his life was void of hope and joy. God was silent so that David could think about what he had done and so that he could feel the weight of his sinful actions.
 
David chose to ignore his sin for a year, but that year was a time filled with stress and guilt. We can either fix the sin, or ignore it and face the consequences. If we ignore it and take God’s silence as a lack of punishment we WILL face the punishment that is promised on those who live in sin. We must choose the first course of action.