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. 

Soul Food

Soul Food

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

man with classes and beard smiling and wearing a ball cap.
Gary Pollard

When I get discouraged, I read a few specific verses. They will hopefully encourage you, too! 

Philippians 3.20f: But we are citizens of heaven, where the lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. 

Romans 8.1-4: So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death…God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. In that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. 

I Corinthians 15.51-53: But let me reveal to you a wonderful secret. We will not all die, but we will all be transformed! It will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed. For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. 

II Corinthians 4.16ff: That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 

II Corinthians 5.1-4: For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.

Plate full of food with turkey, dressing, vegetables, mashed potatoes
Good Dirt

Good Dirt

Wednesday’s Column: Third Words

garyandme521

Gary Pollard

Ephesians 4 describes some spiritual gifts. Their purpose is to allow the church to function as it should. A properly functioning church spends eternity with God. A functional church is on the same page (one mind), has spiritual depth, and is workable (more on that in a bit). 

Ephesians 4.12ff is about members’ roles. What are they for? Everyone serves to equip saints. Saints are people who have pledged allegiance to God. 

We train for morally good works and become stronger through encouragement (12,16). We work toward a unified mindset, knowing Jesus, spiritual maturity, and we pursue the highest standard (Jesus) (13,14). 

We work to avoid immaturity and gullibility (14). We pursue maturity until our mindset emulates Christ’s (15). He is described (multiple times) as the standard we have to imitate. There’s no room for spiritual laziness here. 

Jesus causes growth spiritually, but only if we’ve become soil that can be worked. If our minds aren’t mature, we aren’t workable. Elders are spiritual farmers, our hearts are the soil. If we use Jesus as our standard, we are workable. If not, we’re spiritually dead. 

So, what can we do individually? Make the church strong by pursuing unity, by having spiritual depth, and by being workable. If we work on those things we will spend forever with God. 

Finding Refreshment

Finding Refreshment

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent-portrait

Brent Pollard

Lying in a bed for three and a half months will make you feel icky. You can only bathe with washcloths. Some nurses loaded those cloths with water and got me wetter than an Anglican baptism. Those “baths” made me feel better. However, before being discharged, I finally took a shower. That was the best. I felt refreshed. The only downside was seeing my hair come out in clumps as I washed my hair. It seems I am fated to look like the Stooge, Larry Fine.   

Where do you find your refreshment? Is it in a cool drink on a sultry day? Is it standing by a fireplace in winter? Such actions reinvigorate us. This result is what refreshment accomplishes. The sinner can find refreshment in obedience. In his second recorded sermon, Peter says: 

“Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3.19 NASB1995).

This refreshing comes from being immersed in Christ (cf. Acts 22.16). I would encourage any who have not yet clothed themselves in Christ to allow their faith to lead to this total submission, in which one joins the Lord in His death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6.3-5). No, it is not a work, nor is the power in the water. It is where we symbolically contact the blood of Christ and express a clear conscience before God (1 Peter 3.21). It is a necessity for salvation. 

Yet, there remains refreshment for the Christian as well. Paul speaks of his desire to meet with the brethren of Rome in Romans 15. He tells them to join him in prayer so his arrival will refresh him (Romans 15.32). That is an interesting word choice. In fact, this is the only time this word, συναναπαύομαι, appears in Scripture. The word means to rest along with, but here implies a spiritual refreshing.  

I like that idea of “resting with”, though, especially as it applies to Christian fellowship. We spend our weeks in the world and get beaten up by the forces of the adversary. How refreshing is it when we pause and rest with our brethren in worship and Bible study? I know I have gone to services feeling poorly, physically, only to find myself reinvigorated on my way back home. It has the same effect mentally and, most importantly, spiritually. Unfortunately, my recovery prevents me from joining the brethren currently. Still, you better believe that I eagerly await the day I can rejoin them even more than when I wished for a shower.  

It is sad when brethren find excuses to avoid refreshment since it is one of the blessings we receive in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1.3). Earthly diversions cannot reinvigorate the spirit as can God. Oh, it might bring temporary happiness, but the participant of earthly delights is left feeling empty, needing entertainment and diversion yet again. Services are not a chore when one comes seeking to worship God and rest beside their brethren.  

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10.24-25 NASB1995) 

Don’t you want to find your refreshment? 

BLESSED BY THE BEST

BLESSED BY THE BEST

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

sunset and sweetie

Neal Pollard

Paul is writing about the second coming, trying to straighten out the misinformation of false teachers, whose message threatened to shake the faith of some newer Christians. He makes a transition after exposing their teaching and warning about the outcome for such men. There is a contrast in tone and message for these who embrace and follow the truth. As hopeless as the end will be for those who believe a lie and are condemned, there is great hope for the righteous believer. As we strive to be such today, we stand to benefit in the same way.

We have been chosen (2 Thes. 2:13). God intended from before time to bless those who believed in the truth. He loves those who go against the tide of popular opinion and embraces what He has to offer, and He sets us apart! We are special to Him. The word “chosen” here indicates “to choose or select for the purpose of showing special favor to or concern for” (Louw-Nida, 360).

We have been called (2 Thes. 2:14-15). This word means “choose for receipt of a special benefit or experience” (BDAG, 503). The benefit identified is “the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The way we “obtain” it is by the gospel and “the traditions” given by apostolic teaching. This word tradition simply means teaching handed down, but it means something binding and originating from God. The point is that God reserves His benefits and blessings for those who believe and obey His gospel! Read Ephesians 1 or 1 Peter 1 for a small sample of these!

We have been given consolation (2 Thes. 2:16). This is the idea of emboldening someone to believe or do something. When there is opposition and false teaching, we need encouraged to follow what’s right. What gives us encouragement and hope? God’s grace! To know that God gives us what we don’t deserve, but the very thing we need, will keep us going in the hardest times. It should lift our spirits to know that the worst we face in this life cannot keep us from the best God has to offer. 

We have been given comfort (2 Thes. 2:17). While the word entailed the “setting aside of grief,” Paul speaks of God’s unchanging nature and character. So He’s more than able to set aside whatever grief we feel. Yet, it’s more than removing a negative feeling. He encourages and establishes us so that we can accomplish His will, “every good word and work.” A few sentences later, he elaborates that this involves being strengthened and protected from the evil one (3:3). Seeing the havoc he can wreak, that’s practical comfort every faithful Christian needs!

Do you feel deflated, discouraged, defeated, and dismayed? Here’s a passage you can return to repeatedly! It will remind you of what you mean to God and how He proves it! It’s the substance that can help you weather the worst Satan throws at you this week! Will you remember how much you mean to Him, then show Him how much He means to you? 

The Invitation Song

The Invitation Song

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Some of the most powerful messages are often delivered through song. If you want to really show someone how much you love them, you write a song. If you want to tell others about yourself or your family, you write a song. Songs are a great way to get across a message in a powerful way. In the church we sing songs for several reasons.
 
Paul tells us in Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
‭We sing to help the word of God dwell in our hearts. We sing to teach each other. We sing admonish and correct. We sing out of thankfulness for God. Since there are so many different reasons we sing, each song has a different message. Some are encouraging, some are reminders, and some are a plea to the sinner. We call some of these “invitation songs. ” And usually these are sung after a lesson as a way to encourage lost souls to respond and return.
 
“Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet” identifies a major problem that has plagued man since the Garden of Eden, our sin. The choices we make, the way we live, has stained us. This song calls to our attention the sin problem of man. This song is based on Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
This invitation song shows us the blessing that Christ has given. Though we’ve been stained by sin, they shall become like snow. Pure, holy, undefiled. If you’ve ever spilled grape juice on a white T-shirt, that’s the imagery.
 
Sin has ruined our hearts, but Christ is the perfect stain remover. He is able to remove every spot and blemish. Rom. 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Do we really think that we could live up to the glory of God himself? Could we have fixed this sin problem on our own? No. And we sing this song to remind us of WHO our solution is.
 
Through the gift of Christ they will be removed. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
 
On an old rugged cross Jesus paid it all, and all to him I owe. I come just as I am, but I surrender all. Will you cherish the old rugged cross? Do you recognize the blessing and the blood that has washed us whiter than snow?
 
 
One of my favorite preachers delivering the invitation in Lexington, KY (2018)
Four Ways To Simply Feel Better About Life

Four Ways To Simply Feel Better About Life

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

God wants you to succeed and He can’t wait to see you. 

Alright, take a deep breath and let’s dive into an ocean of hope for a few minutes. 

If you’re a member of the Lord’s church you can probably think of at least one person who is able to keep a smile on his or her face and a tune on their lips, even when everything in their life seems to be going horribly wrong. 

We might be tempted to think, “I must be one horrible Christian because I can tell you now, I’d never be that joyful under such circumstances.” 

It may seem unnatural or even out of reach for everybody to live their lives just like that but we can’t forget their secret. 

The “magic” is all happening on the inside. 

God has transformed the heart and spirit of that person, and the effects of this are seen when you spot that smile on their face and see their head carried high. You’ll also be able to hear the effect–evidence in conversations with these inspiring people because they tend to direct your attention to God by giving Him all the glory and credit for their peaceful state of mind. Do you have the desire to be that kind of person? I’m assuming you do. Who wouldn’t want this supernatural ability? 

Our lives are a roller coaster ride of emotions and situations of all kinds and the worst state to find yourself is the dreaded “slump.” You know you’re in a slump when you can’t seem to find the motivation to be happy or even allow a peaceful or cheerful thought to linger in your brain. 

Let’s take a quick gander at Philippians 2:14-15 and then dive right into those four ways to feel better about life.

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

This verse may make us think, “easier said than done!” (especially if you’re currently in the slump) but let’s look at it from another perspective. 

When we look a wee closer at this verse we see at least four juicy nuggets of hope.

We could imply that– 

1. Your attitude can change (no grumbling!) 

2. Your speech can change (no grumbling or questioning!) 

3. Your demeanor can physically change (like innocent children) 

4. Your mindset can change (shining lights) 

The key word is in bold in each of these four areas. This CAN happen, but we’ll need to take a visit to the “how department” first. 

Welcome to the “How Department.” 

First, it’s up to us to internalize that this change is really possible.  

Second, allow yourself to enjoy that feeling of hope that comes with the knowledge that God can change your mindset. 

Third, we must accept that this change is also expected of us. 

 Fourth, understand that God knows that we have the ability to climb out of the slump or He wouldn’t have told us to do so. 

Here’s how God can make you feel better. 

By… 

1. Remembering all those times in the past that God has helped you and others out of previous slumps. 

2. Surrounding ourselves with those positive family members in the congregation you attend. 

3. Gaining some of His wisdom by reaching out to trusted mentors or older Christians who have walked the walk of faith longer than you have.

4. Spending time with God-loving friends who are trying their best, just as you are, and the two of you can mutually encourage one another. 

We have the ability to change, but we have to develop that desire to do so. 

Remember. 

God wants you to succeed and He can’t wait to see you.

The Difference Encouragement Makes

The Difference Encouragement Makes

Charlie Smith

“And when he was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them going in and going out at Jerusalem, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord” – Acts 9:26-29a

In 1984 the Chicago Cubs hired Jim Frey as manager. During spring training, while inspecting his new team, Frey saw a young infielder named Ryne Sandberg hitting hard groundball after hard groundball to shortstop. Another word for a groundball to shortstop, no matter how hard hit, is an out.

So Frey took aside the 24-year-old, whom the Cubs had received as a throw-in two years earlier from the Phillies, who projected him as nothing more than a backup. The manager’s message was: You’ve got the size; you’ve got the ability; drive the ball! When you get that inside fastball, don’t ground out; knock it over the left-field fence.

It worked: That year Sandberg won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award. By the time he had retired, he had hit more home runs than any other second baseman in major league history. And when he was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the highest honor afforded any baseball player, and this for a guy deemed expendable by the team who drafted him, Sandberg invited as his special guest to the ceremony his old manager, Jim Frey.

What a difference a word of encouragement can make!

This is the difference we see Barnabas making for Saul. The church in Jerusalem, which Saul had persecuted, is afraid of him when he comes and tries to join them. But Barnabas, who had credibility with the church and the apostles, takes him to the leadership and vouches for what Saul had done by preaching boldly in the name of Jesus. And what a difference it made for the future of the church!

Why did Barnabas react differently than others in the Jerusalem church? I think Barnabas saw the same potential that the Lord saw in Saul, whom He had appointed as his chosen vessel to take the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15). Barnabas saw not what Saul had been but what he could be.

It’s not a coincidence that later we see Saul, by then known as Paul, offering encouragement to his son in the faith, Timothy (2 Timothy 1). All of us can think of examples of people who have encouraged us in our Christian walk, and because of that we are strengthened to encourage others.

Here’s a challenge: Who is one person in your congregation who you could encourage to do more for the Lord? You’ve got to be intentional in doing this, or it tends to never happen. And you need a deadline; I challenge you to reach out in some way to encourage them in the next week.

What a difference it can make!

Breaking The All-Time Assist Record

Breaking The All-Time Assist Record

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

The FIBA basketball glossary defines an assist as a pass to a teammate that directly leads to a score by a field goal (a basket scored on any shot). When I was in High School and college, Duke University had a guard named Bobby Hurley who would break the all-time NCAA record for assists with 1076 in 140 games (sports-reference.com). That means an average of almost eight times per game, he gave up the ball to a teammate whose three-point shots, slam dunks, or other baskets made the crowds stand up and cheer. While knowledgeable enthusiasts of the game appreciate the importance of the “assist man,” the average fan may miss the vital contribution of the one making that assist. But the very concept suggests unselfishness and one with a team mentality. For them, satisfaction and enjoyment comes in a well-timed, well-placed contribution that allows others to get recognition and praise.

Scripture places a great premium on the person who assists others. Our first thought may be financially. Paul tells the Ephesian elders that he had taken care of his own financial needs (and of those with him) while doing missionary work, recalling words of Jesus not recorded in the gospels that “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In the matter of “giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15), Paul encouraged a mindset that applied to more than just monetary things. It was not a mind which sought “after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus” (2:21). It was a “humility of mind” that could “regard one another as more important than” themselves, that could “look out” not merely for their “own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (2:3-4). It is the Christ-like heart that chooses to “please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-3); cf. 1 Cor. 10:24,33). Oh, to say with Paul, “So then we pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another” (Rom. 14:19).

Would you like to be the assist-leader in your home, in your congregation, and in your community? Look for ways to put others in the spotlight for their efforts and kindness. That may mean reorienting how you see life, looking to give glory and not needing to have it. What a righteous revolution would occur when our focus would be on how to make others look good, helping others to be appreciated and recognized, and setting others up for praise and admiration. It will in no way hinder us from receiving the highest accolade of all, given by the most important witness–the One who sees all with perfect perspective (Ecc. 12:14). A “well done” from Him has eternal implications (Mat. 25:21,23). What more do we need than that?!

Encouraging Encouragement

Encouraging Encouragement

Thursday’s Column: “Carlnormous Comments”

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Carl Pollard

Quite possibly one of the most important actions we can do as Christians is encouraging others. With these words we have the ability to build up and unify the church. Encouragement is a very prevalent concept in scripture, but let’s focus on just one passage.
 
Ephesians 4:29, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
 
Paul commands us to refrain from unwholesome words. This word, “unwholesome,” would literally be translated as “rotten.” A sane person doesn’t eat rotten fruit or spoiled meat. Why? Because it isn’t safe. It tastes bad. It smells bad. And it’s lost its appeal. Our speech shouldn’t be rotten; that is, our speech should never be filled with words that are bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful–words that tear people down. In our new walk in Christ, we should be thoroughly devoted to encouragement, not tearing others down.
 
So we must ask, what is good speech and what does it sound like? Simply put, this would be words that build people up, words that help us reach eternity, words that brings unity and peace, and words that help to encourage and exhort.
 
For example, you would say “Georgia is a great team” instead of “they are the worst team ever.” You would say, Carl you’re looking extra handsome today.” On a serious note, we should be saying words that aren’t negative, that are free from gossip and sin.
 
When Scripture talks about our words, it’s talking about positive versus negative. It is not necessarily a word that is bad, but it is focused on how our words are used. So, how are we using our speech? Are people around me encouraged by what I say? Or are they torn down and destroyed?
 
The Christian walk is to be filled with encouraging words. Specifically, Paul says use words that bring about edification (that which builds up) and that fits the need of the one who hears it. He says in verse 29 that our words can bring grace to those who hear. The word grace here is “the showing of human favor.” When we use edifying words we are showing others that we favor them. We care about them and want what is best.
 
Our new life in Christ is defined by our speech. Speech that stands out from the world. Speech that is clearly seen as different and appealing. May we also look for ways to encourage and build up our church family.
Dave Steeves speaking for the first time encouraged the Lehman congregation with his words and his example!