BLESSED BY THE BEST

BLESSED BY THE BEST

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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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!
Encouragement

Encouragement

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

How important is encouragement? Winston Churchill understood its importance. It kept the morale of Great Britain high enough to not only survive the Blitzkrieg, but also link together as a country to defeat the Axis Powers. Hitler understood its importance – with it (by way of propaganda) he brought his country out of a decade or so long depression. Even the world’s worst people understood the value of encouragement. 

In the church, it is no different. Only, instead of facing a corrupt and violent world power, we face the Father of Lies and his army. This is a much more daunting enemy – but that is not all. We face discouragement in the church, we face rivalries, bitter jealousy, division over doctrinal matters, personality clashes, etc. 

Sometimes we find ourselves overwhelmed when we face these things – and for good reason! But this is why encouragement is so vital. England faced incendiary bombs and widespread death of their fellow countrymen. Germany faced severe poverty. What did it take to help these countries succeed? Encouragement. What will it take for us to overcome the challenges of being a Christian? Encouragement. 

In all of these cases, boosting morale did not magically happen. A respected individual got in front of the people and commended and encouraged them – this made all of the difference. Notice how Britain did during Churchill’s time as Prime Minister: they rallied themselves and helped defeat the Axis Powers in a short period of time. 

As Christians, we have to be the voice of encouragement for our brothers and sisters. When the church is unified toward a single cause and stands together for truth, she is far more successful than one bogged down in discouragement and strife. 

As we go about our lives, let us employ the mindset of encouragement, while seeking to create unity and high morale among our family. It may just make the difference in the eternal state of many people. 

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing” (1 These. 5:11).

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The motivational Winston Churchill

 The People Project  

 The People Project  

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

This post is for the lady across the street. She works at the gas station. This post is for Charles. That’s the guy we always call when the office printer breaks down or a leaky roof needs repaired. This article is for my family. My family means the world to me and if my life can help ensure an eternal future together (and I mean every one of them) then I have accomplished something truly great. This post is for my wife. My wife will be in heaven with me— she must be! The truth is, this post is for the faithful child of God, the disgruntled member in the pew, the discouraged elder, and frustrated preacher— this post is for people. It’s for the new child of God that is still dripping wet from the waters of baptism, to the battle-hardened Christian with years of faithful service. God drew a line in the sand long ago after humans fell from grace and separated ourselves from Him. On one side of that line you have the lost. Their sheer abundance in our communities and the world has caused many congregations to become numb to their horrific eternal state. Still, on the other side of that line you have the faithful. No, not the uncommitted pew-warmers, but the faithful. Sadly there are those inside the church that are on the wrong side of the Divine line. Often they blend in with the faithful because they look and act like the faithful do. This is nothing new, but elderships still scratch their heads over stunted growth and disappearing members. Preachers lose their voices as they pound evangelism and outreach from the pulpit. The reservoirs are being depleted by years of drought. 

You’ll hear a lot of this kind of talk in some men’s meetings as the guys will sit around the table. After drinking coffee and filling their bellies with biscuits and gravy, it’s common for them to kick back and discuss what’s going on in the church. Obviously there are some big issues! So, who’s to blame? In an attempt to unmask the villain, one middle aged man exclaims, “if the leaders would _______”. A couple of his friends, who have clearly visited this topic a few times, nod their heads in approval. Another gentleman, with a white mustache, grunts as he repositions himself in his tin folding chair. Talk like this is uncomfortable, and it’s exhausting for many of them. The head hog at the trough clears his throat to let the others know he’s about to offer his respected opinion. He squints his eyes, leans back, then makes this statement. “It’s really society, you know. People just don’t go to church like they did when I was growing up!” Following this declaration, most of them will give their affirming “Mmm”’s and “exactly rights.” It’s at this point the tragic generational blame game begins. The wheels spin for a while, then everyone gets up and goes back to their homes to enjoy the rest of their Saturday. Tomorrow morning they dress up in their suits and ties and drive to worship. At worship they sit in the same spot, as the service carries on in it’s usual order. 

In a world full of people intent on destroying and demonizing one another, the church needs to be the church— now more than ever. Our communities, friends, family, and nation need us to be the church. That starts with you and me. Paul said, “Encourage and build one another up…” in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. We can’t do this enough, and we can’t overstate it’s importance. Who have you encouraged and built up this week? How will you do it today? The church is God’s way of improving people, and  the church is God’s perfect project— for people. 

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σαπρός (Unwholesome)

σαπρός (Unwholesome)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

 

Yesterday Carl and I smelled something absolutely awful in his house. Bailey, his trouble-making Carolina dog, had just been let back in; she had evidently rolled around in the remains of an animal that recently reached putrefaction and it showed. We were gagging and gasping for air while attempting to find the source of the odor traumatizing our olfactory lobes. The deceased animal outside was found (kind of) and Bailey was forced into the bath. The sheer power of that stench was incredible.

Our words can have the same effect on a person’s ears that the decaying body of roadkill has on the nose. Ephesians 4.29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only words good for encouragement according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

I want to focus on the word “unwholesome” here. When we hear “unwholesome,” we might think of a dirty joke, curse word, or some other graphic form of speech. That can be included in this word, for sure, but we need to take a closer look at what it means in scripture.

The word is σαπρός (sapros) which means, “to be of such poor quality as to be of little or no value,” or, “bad or unwholesome to the extent of being harmful.” It generally described something that was rotten or decayed and completely useless. That really widens the range of words we can describe as being unwholesome. In modern Greek, σαπρός means “putrid” and is used to describe the same putrefaction process Bailey unfortunately rolled in. It was awful to smell, and putrid words are awful to hear.

The next time we speak to someone, let’s put our words through a simple filter. Let’s ask ourselves, “Is this rotten? Is it going to be beneficial to the person hearing this? Does it encourage?” If our words are closer to rotting flesh than graceful encouragement, we must rethink them before they escape our lips. It’s not just a good idea, it’s certainly imperative to godly living.

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My First Sermon

My First Sermon

Neal Pollard

My dad was holding a gospel meeting somewhere in the Carolinas and he asked me to preach the Sunday evening sermon of the week he was gone. It was April 12, 1987, and I was a Junior at Bradwell Institute (high school) in Hinesville, Georgia. He gave me one of his sermons and I basically, with little change, got up and preached it. I remember being scared out of my mind. I had no formal training (which is obvious from the grammar and pronunciation). Afterward, the congregation flooded me with compliments, which says everything about them and nothing about my abilities. But, it encouraged me. It helped solidify my desire to preach and became the foundation for my willingness to go preach around the area over the next year-plus (preaching in such places as Glennville, Jesup, and Brunswick, GA). It led me to choose Faulkner University, to major in Bible and meet great preachers and teachers like Wendell Winkler, Ken Randolph, Carl Cheatham, Leonard Johnson, Eris Benson, Donnie Hilliard, and others. My family led me to believe that gospel preaching was an honorable, important occupation. So did the Hinesville church of Christ, on that occasion and subsequent ones. So did brethren in those places where I filled in.

What an important lesson for families and congregations today! Paul asks some questions of eternal consequence: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!” (Romans 10:14-15).  I pray that more adults will send a clear message to young men: preaching is important, respectable, and valuable! It should be considered as an option exercised by normal and even talented and intelligent individuals.

We’ve been engaged in full-time ministry for 28-plus years, and it has blessed our lives tremendously! It’s thrilling to watch our three sons giving themselves to that life, too. Let’s send more preachers!

(It’s hard for me to listen to, but it should encourage anyone who says, “I don’t have any talent for preaching!”)