Keep Him King

Keep Him King

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.”

1 Samuel 12.24 

When this passage is taken out of the events unfolding in this chapter, it seems like a great verse to remind us to be grateful for God’s blessings. While that application could certainly be made, here’s the context. 

God’s desire for His people is rejected. Unlike the surrounding ancient cultures and nations, Israel had no king. Instead, they were to have men chosen by God to serve as their judge. The temptation to establish an earthly king became so great among the Israelites that they gave in and decided to oppose the Lord’s leadership strategy. 

Samuel is in the final stretch of his life and guided by God’s direction, he allows the people to have what they wanted— but not what they needed. 

Samuel replies to the people’s cry for a king and here’s our verse in context. 

“You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.” 

Samuel wasn’t merely encouraging the people to be grateful for what they have as it might seem on the surface. He was reminding them to not reject the King of Kings after their earthly king fails them. When we make poor decisions and are forced to pay the consequences, the worst possible move would be a move away from God. Taking ownership of the trouble we bring into our lives is vital to future faithfulness. Difficult lessons are, by definition, not a joyful experience. Things could always be worse, but things could always be better. At the end of the day it comes down to which king we decide to serve. 

“My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke…”

Proverbs 3.11 

An Inspired Appeal To Assemble

An Inspired Appeal To Assemble

Neal Pollard

I’m writing this during one of the best gospel meetings I’ve ever attended. Robert Hatfield is doing an incredible job! He has a way of telling even challenging truths with kindness while reaching the heart and the mind. He has been prepared and has presented each sermon masterfully. I’m also grateful our elders had the wisdom to invite him to come.

Have you thought about why special events like gospel meetings, like our “regular services,” are so beneficial? Why should they draw our interest and be important to us? The writer of Hebrews gives us at least three reasons in an exhortation in Hebrews 10:24. He writes, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds…” The context of this passage is assembling together. He contrasts “neglecting to meet together” with “encouraging one another” in verse 25, but the why is in verse 24.

COOPERATION–“Let Us…One Another”

You will find the exhortation “let us” three consecutive times in Hebrews 10, in verses 22-24. The first is about our relationship with God (22), the second is about our relationship with the world (23), and the third is about our relationship with each other (24). The writer identifies it as “one another.” It requires each of us to do our part, to decide to act. The more who embrace this encouragement, the more effective we will be at obeying this command. “Us” can be a small number of people or a large number of people, but truly “the more, the merrier.” 

CONSIDERATION–“Consider”

This literally means “think carefully about.” It pictures sitting down and being intentional. Perhaps visualize specific faces of brothers and sisters, those who are friends, new Christians, visitors, newcomers, family members, and the like. Visualize that great High Priest who is also there (19-21). We will hop in our cars after a long day (or week) of work and school and rally together when we have taken the time to reflect on who we are going to meet with. 

CAUSATION–“Stimulate…To Love And Good Deeds”

It never fails! When you think about how the reason for assembling is to praise and glorify our Lord and Savior, there is already ample motivation. But then there is what our mutual presence and participation does for one another. It causes us to think and feel and to do right. We constantly need that prompting and urging. The world is all too ready to be unloving and to either do wrong or neglect right actions. Every opportunity to assemble holds stimulating possibilities.

There have been non-Christian visitors at each service of our gospel meeting. That’s exciting! But just as exciting, you and I get to be together in a time of worship and study. We’ll come with buckets emptied by the day and week, then leave with them filled to overflowing. God knew that’s how life is! It’s why he urges us, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” He gives us assembling together as a powerful outlet. “Let us” take advantage!  

Do You Have Three Pennies?

Do You Have Three Pennies?

Neal Pollard

Ravi Gandhi, the CFO of United Auto Credit Corporation, carries on an interesting routine every morning. When he gets to his desk at work, he puts three pennies on the left side of his computer. They are reminders for him to look for people to encourage, thank, and recognize. If he gets up from his desk, he puts the pennies in his left pocket. Each time he succeeds in blessing someone in these ways, he moves the penny from the left to the right side. Keeping up with the “three penny practice” reminds him that we live in a world filled with people deprived of encouragement, and it reminds him of what he can do to practically make a difference (Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge, 253-254).

Encouragement is an intentional rather than an accidental exercise. In other words, we have got to be looking for ways to do it. I am not sure that it comes naturally to everyone. I believe some have the gift of exhortation and encouragement (Rom. 12:8), but how many cannot be sure for lack of trying? It requires a certain amount of discipline and selflessness to look for people, often outside the spotlight, who are wearily struggling along life’s road.

The word translated “encourage” in the New Testament is, to me, one of the most beautiful words in the Bible. It literally carries the idea of coming alongside someone and putting your arm around them, “to ask to come and be present where the speaker is, call to one’s side” (BDAG, 764). Louw-Nida defines it as causing “someone to be encouraged or consoled, either by verbal or non-verbal means” (305).

Back to Mr. Gandhi’s mission, there are always people to encourage, thank, and recognize. What about the custodian, the office administrator, the intern, or the new hire? What about the person who delivers food? What about the introverted, hard worker who’s always prompt and dependable but apt to be “invisible”? There’s the lunchroom employees, the teacher’s aids, the bus drivers, teachers, administrators, and the security personnel at school.

This is a fantastic practice in our church life, too. Look for the new Christians, new members, those who are alone, the elderly, little kids, the socially awkward, the singles, the widows, and, of course, the visitors. Find a tangible way to express gratitude and recognition. Perhaps something like placing three pennies in your pocket or three rubber bands on the fingers of your left hand will keep this necessary work at the forefront of your mind.

Yes, the Scriptures command it: “Encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Th. 5:11), “encourage the fainthearted” (1 Th. 5:14), “encourage one another day after day” (Heb. 3:13), and “encourage one another” (Heb. 10:25). But, it may surprise us how rewarding and satisfying it is to bless people with some simple, sincere encouragement.

Do you have three pennies? Why not pocket them, then pursue people you can lift with a simple word of joyful cheer? Three such acts a day amounts to over a thousand acts of kindness a year. If we all did that, it would revolutionize our world! Three pennies might not buy much in the world, but they might change a life!

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

carl-pic

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

image

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.