Bring Your Thinking Cap

Bring Your Thinking Cap

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Word

Gary Pollard

Today’s article may be a little chaotic. It’s about something not well-defined or understood, and its solution is unknown to me. This article will hopefully serve as a target; it’d be good to have lots of Christian minds brainstorming solutions to this issue.

Just about everyone’s had THE virus. I’ve had it once for sure, maybe twice. It don’t mess around. I started developing symptoms after recovery that, apparently, quite a few people have developed. It’s commonly called Long Covid or PASC. Symptoms include fatigue, cognitive difficulties, decreased mobility, respiratory and cardiological issues, pain, malaise, and many others (psu.edu). You probably either know someone dealing with this now, or are dealing with it yourself.

Research is not super easy to get ahold of, and what I could find was either low-quality or not peer reviewed. Its existence isn’t really contested, but little is known about its prevalence. Best I could find was that about 43% of those who recover will experience Long Covid. Many haven’t recovered after almost two years!

My concern with this is its potential effect on faith. Things like driving at night, interacting with lots of people, spending time together outside of worship, church events, service projects, teaching/preaching/song leading, evangelism, etc. are part of our Christian life. While some of these can be difficult on a good day, they’re now practically impossible (or significantly more difficult) for people with Long Covid.

The church has always had members with chronic, debilitating diseases. Normally, our shut-ins are a very small percentage of overall membership. With Long Covid often compared to the effects of chemotherapy, this number is likely to grow significantly. If roughly half of our recovered members end up with these long-term effects, how do we address this?

Since it affects both young adults and senior citizens, how do we navigate its impact? What can members who now have Long Covid do to stay active in their churches? While living with a chronic health condition is no cake walk, those of us who do are at least mentally equipped to accept it. Members who enjoyed good health before Long Covid are struggling to adapt to this change.

At some point in the near-ish future, I hope to write an article with potential solutions. It will be geared toward those who’re experiencing major health issues for the first time. In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to do a lot of praying, planning, brainstorming, and creative problem solving. Nothing’s too big for God, and we’ll find a solution with his help.

Ignorance And Inoculation

Ignorance And Inoculation

Neal Pollard

Stephen Coss, author of The Fever of 1721: The Epidemic That Revolutionized Medicine and American Politics, relates the fascinating story of the first widespread inoculation effort in the fight against the deadly plague of smallpox. At a time when medical practice was steeped in vast misunderstanding and wrongheaded medical treatments (more than half a century later, George Washington’s doctors would facilitate his death by treating his cold and fever through bloodletting!), two unlikely men were able to withstand the withering criticism of the local medical community and superstitious Boston residents who adamantly vilified them both. One was a physician, Zabdiel Boylston, ostracized, threatened, and condemned by his peers and the town’s council. The other was Cotton Mather, forever infamous for his superstitious influence in the Salem witch hunt and trials that led to the execution of over 20 innocent people a quarter-century earlier. Both believed that by infecting a person with a small amount of smallpox, they could prevent death and even a serious, scarring case of the frightening disease. No less than young Benjamin Franklin piled on with criticism and satire against the two men’s campaign, but both were ultimately vindicated as the inoculations proved far superior in saving lives in Boston’s deadliest smallpox outbreak. It took a lot of courage and conviction for these men to persist in the face of resistance from the highest places of their society.

What if there was a disease that threatened one hundred percent of the global population, one that proved one hundred percent fatal if untreated? What if there was a remedy available that was proven to save every patient from otherwise certain death? What if you knew it worked? Would you have the courage and conviction to offer it to the infected, even in the face of intimidation and threat?

Over 600 years before Christ, a prophet wrote, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored?” (Jer. 8:22). The balm of Gilead, who was also the Great Physician, came to be the remedy and administer it to the willing (Mat. 9:12; Mk. 2:17; Lk. 4:23; 5:31). He left us in charge of offering this remedy and trying to prevent spiritual death (Jn. 8:21,24) in as many people as possible. Most will reject or at least ignore the offer, unaware of the gravity of their condition. That cannot deter us! Jesus is counting on us to apply His blood to rescue the perishing and care for the dying. A day is coming when there will be no more remedy (cf. 2 Chron. 36:16), but we must be out sharing it until that moment! There are people out there searching for a cure (Mat. 7:7-8). Whatever it costs us, let’s not stop until we’ve helped as many people as we can!

Painting of Zabdiel Boylston
What I Saw On Sunday

What I Saw On Sunday

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

 

Neal Pollard

It was our largest crowd since before the Pandemic. It was a targeted effort to fill the building. The building was full! I asked several how many non-members were present and the most conservative answer was dozens, perhaps fifty. While we know that filling the pews is only one factor in encouraging people to follow Jesus (discipleship), it is a pretty fundamental and important one. Let me share a few exciting things I saw.

I saw the power of an invitation. The elders laid out a challenge to us to invite every non-member we could think of, coworkers, family members, friends, classmates, acquaintances, etc. That’s not revolutionary. Perhaps it was the sheer volume of invitations so many members issued. Such seeds were spread far and wide, and Sunday was an indication that some will come if asked. I am confident that many who were invited will come in the future, if we continue to ask. Philip invited Nathanael to “come and see” (John 1:46), and it changed Nathanael’s life! Andrew told his brother, Peter, “We have found the Christ” (John 1:41)! It changed not just Peter’s life, but the thousands of lives Peter eventually touched. Who knows the eternal impact made by all the invitations issued this weekend, but it shows that there’s still power in a simple invitation!

I saw the strength of teamwork. That was on display in so many ways. There was a huge team of people greeting those who entered our doors. Anticipating a lot of visitors, this was organized beyond the ordinary measure. It was exciting to see so many doing this, and it seemed to be infectious. Others joined in. It was evident in the efforts of multiple deacons and vision groups coordinating various works. It extended to members in the auditorium warmly welcoming unfamiliar faces and making our visitors feel at home. It continued on to the potluck after Bible class with the scores of people bringing an abundance of food, serving, assisting, and cleaning up. We were a finely-tuned machine of coordination. I could not help but think of Paul’s words, to Philippi (“make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose,” 2:2) and Colosse (“beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity,” 3:14). Sure, he had more in mind that one event on one day, but this is a key way such overall unity is built. 

I saw the example of leadership. This began with the eldership. They not only challenged us to invite, they led the way. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest that the four of them invited hundreds of people by text, phone, and face-to-face. They invited friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers! True leadership shows the way! This included those who led in worship. There was forethought, effort, and coordination from the greeting to the announcements and every act of worship in between them. This involved the membership who enthusiastically engaged in the worship. It also takes in every one that helped people find bathrooms and classrooms. Leadership always breeds more leadership. The writer of Hebrews says, “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” (13:7). 

I saw the hope of tomorrow. The effects of the last 18-plus months have been deflating and demoralizing. We have lost members to Covid, physically and spiritually. It has derailed plans. It has distracted us. But Sunday showed that by faith in God and by following His plan, the best is yet to be! As we were reminded at the end of the day yesterday afternoon, we have worship every Sunday so let’s keep inviting. How many Bible studies will result from inviting others to church? How many future preachers, elders, deacons, soul-winners, and Bible class teachers are represented in those who walked through our doors yesterday, some for the first time ever? To some degree, we’ve got to be like Paul and say, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13b-14). 

There’s more to do! There’s more inviting to do. There’s more follow up to do. But I see more than a special event in what occurred on Sunday! I see a culture change and a purposed people. Think what God can do with that!

Bring ‘Em Back Alive

Bring ‘Em Back Alive

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

Frank Buck was a true adventurer. He lived in 1900’s and would travel all over the world bringing back all kinds of exotic animals. What set him apart from others in his profession was that he didn’t shoot the animals and bring back their stuffed skins. In Frank’s mind, anyone  could gun them down, but who would dare bring back a lion or a rhino— alive?

Frank Buck  probably didn’t know it, but he was very scriptural in his approach. Jesus sent us out to seek and to save the lost, not to destroy them. It seems as though some may have forgotten that key element. That infamous Wild West poster we see in movies reading, “WANTED! DEAD OR ALIVE” doesn’t fit the biblical model for evangelism.

 Soul-winning is about leading others to Christ. It’s not about winning the argument or flexing our vast amounts of knowledge. It’s not about proving someone how ignorant and wrong they are. It’s not about showing others how impossible we are to defeat in the match of verbal fisticuffs. It’s about saving their souls. Jesus is looking for those gutsy followers. The ones who are willing to take action and get out there! The Greek word “ZOGREO” only appears twice in the New Testament, as far as I know. The word literally means, “to take alive.” 
 
In Luke 5:10 the word is used to express one being taken alive for God. In 2 Timothy 2:26 Paul would us the word when talking about those who have been taken captive by the devil. These two verses remind us that all will be taken somehow. Some from life to death, others from death to life. Matthew 28 is the Great Commission, our permission to baptize people for the remission of their sins. You can be that gutsy follower since Jesus said He’s going to go out with us, “even to the end of the world.” Let’s get out there and bring ‘em back alive. 
We Are Not Doing Right” (2 Kings 7)

We Are Not Doing Right” (2 Kings 7)

Monday Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard 

There was a famine in Samaria and everyone was desperate. The need for food was more pressing than the danger they faced in looking for it. Elisha predicted the end of the famine but Jehoram’s right hand man refused to believe it could happen so quickly. The prophet tells him he’d see it happen but that he would not eat of it (2).

Four lepers decided to throw themselves on the mercy of the Arameans, but God caused the besieging army to hear the sound of enemy armies. They imagine the worst and leave their camp in pursuit. So, when the lepers arrived at the camp, it was abandoned. They found food and riches beyond their wildest imagination. They start to hoard and gorge themselves, then had second thoughts. They say to each other, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent; if we wait until morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come, let us go and tell the king’s household” (9). Several things stand out here.

THESE MEN HAD GOOD NEWS.

IT WAS WRONG FOR THEM TO KEEP SILENT ABOUT IT.

THEY EXPECTED PUNISHMENT IF THEY DIDN’T URGENTLY SHARE IT.

THEY ADMONISHED EACH OTHER TO TELL IT.

They did and they helped save the nation. God caused it to happen but He worked through these four lepers. The famine ended (and the royal officer was trampled at the gate—he saw the famine end but died before it could benefit him).

I am reminded of my task as a Christian, one spiritually sick with sin but in a similar situation. I have found good news. It is wrong for me to keep silent. I must not just share it but do so urgently! I also need to admonish you to realize you are in the same predicament as me. You cannot afford to keep silent! A feast awaits! 

7000 Chances

7000 Chances

Friday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl emily truck

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Carl Pollard

Research shows that the average person speaks at least 7,000 words a day, while many (you know who you are) speak much more than that. Think about what that means. 7000 words that will leave an imprint on those who hear. That’s an incredible opportunity that we are given…or maybe it’s a bad thing?
 
How do we use our words? As Christians those 7000 words should help us fulfill the command given to “make disciples” (Mt. 28:18-20). That begs the question, what should those 7000 words contain? Even more, what am I saying with those words?
 
We have the responsibility to share the good news with others, so what are my words doing to help accomplish this goal? Colossians 4:6 tells us what our daily speech should consist of. But first, notice the context. Colossians 4:5 says, “walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time.”
 
We have been called to make the best use of the time. Ephesians 5:15-16 reads, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” How do we do this? Colossians 4:6 tells us it’s by talking the right way. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
 
If we want to walk with wisdom and be effective towards those in the world, we must use the proper words. As Christians, our speech should be attractive. “Let you speech always be gracious.” Gracious is defined as, “A winning quality or attractiveness that invites a favorable reaction.” What does it mean to look attractive? We use this word to describe someone or something that has favorable qualities that we enjoy. Applying that to our speech, it must ALWAYS be described this way. There should never a moment where we stop.
 
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” We want people to leave conversations feeling better than when they first saw us. We want people to see Jesus in our speech.
 
We must always try our best to use attractive words. Always look for ways to encourage and help others with our speech. This means on the internet or in person. Our words are attractive when they are sincere and honest. We are called to have attractive speech, and the words we use must be genuine and real. Not saying them to sound holy or to look good, but out of love and concern for the souls of those who hear.
Got to see these two Huntsville area preachers and their lovely wives Wednesday night.
Are You Ready?

Are You Ready?

Jeremy Waddell

jeremy talking

A lot of you do not know this about me but I grew up on a dairy farm. Holstein cows were a part of every day of my life up until about five or six years ago.

I have milked, showed, studied, and researched cows for years and invested so much time, effort and even money into cows. I can answer almost any question and have a deep conversation at any moment and can be confident in my answers when it comes to a Holstein cow… who won the show, who owns it, where it came from, her genetics.

The thing is… cows are no longer part of my life. I still have all that knowledge that worked so hard for, but it is basically useless in my everyday life.

Most people I deal with today would think I was crazy and probably take offense if I came up and asked what they thought about the rump and legs on that cow.

The need for that knowledge faded away just like every other earthly thing will and does for each of us.

I am sure we all have things in our life that seemed so important at one time and that we have moved on from. It faded away and was not near as important as we thought it was. Things of this earth will always fade away at some point.

God, Jesus, and the Bible does not fade away and never will!

1 Peter 1:4 tells us that God has given us an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and that does not
fade away. It is reserved in heaven for each of us because of the blood that Jesus shed for us. We should have the same knowledge and confidence in the Bible and about Jesus that we have about our hobby or job or whatever else it is that consumes our time and know that it will never become useless. If anything, it should get more and more important in our lives.

We should be able to have:

-Have a conversation about Jesus and not be nervous
-Be confident in answering questions about the Bible
-Quote scripture and passages from heart just as we can the facts about our hobby or job and whatever interest we have that consumes us on a daily basis.

1 Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;” God has given us everything we need to be prepared to win souls AND to save our own soul.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

We need that same knowledge, passion, and fire for studying the Word of God and being the “workman” that we are for our hobbies and earthly things. Being able to teach anyone at any time about Jesus and have ready answers for them. There are people out there that want to hear about Jesus. We need to be ready and able to talk to them, teach them and most importantly be an example to them. Remember: ““Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). 

  • –  Are you the worker God wants you to be?

  • –  Are you ready to use the tools He has given you? The Bible, your abilities and talents

  • –  Are you ready to put in the time and effort that you need to to be the Christian that

    God wants you to be? To study and learn from something that will never fade away or become useless.

Listen! 

Listen! 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Daleheadshot

Dale Pollard

Listen! That’s how Jesus starts His lesson in Mark 4:3. He has just stepped out onto a boat so that He could speak to the large crowd that had gathered to hear Him. This was a very special sermon. Jesus is going to give the secret to all of His parables by telling a unique parable about the farmer who goes out to sow on the various kinds of ground. When Jesus said “Listen!” He was talking to a specific kind of person. 

He wasn’t interested in the one who would hear His words and then fall away later when called to stand up for their faith. He wasn’t looking for the one who would hear His words and then foolishly decide that this world had more to offer. 

Jesus said “listen!” because He knew that some would hear His words and those words would change their lives. They would live out His teachings. They would become those lamps He would later discuss later in the chapter. Those who truly listened to this specific sermon and took it to heart would bear fruit. It’s humbling to think that some only believe they’ve listened to Jesus, but on the last day will find out that they only thought they listened (verse 25). 

Are we listening to the Savior? One way Jesus tells us we can know if we and others are listening is by looking at the fruit being planted. This section of scripture is a great reminder that there are many who will not hear the Lord and His life-changing and life-saving message, but there are also those out there in our communities who are willing and waiting for us to share Him with them.

THE CHURCH’S OPPORTUNITIES

THE CHURCH’S OPPORTUNITIES

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

 

No pandemic or problem can suppress or destroy the church’s opportunities. If it could withstand the withering attacks of persecution in its first few centuries, the body of our Lord can come through this current storm stronger than it was before. The church’s opportunities are limitless because…

  • The gospel is still powerful (Rom. 1:16). 
  • Christ is still the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). 
  • The church is still the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:9-11).
  • The mission is still in force (Mat. 28:19).
  • We still have the only answer to the world’s biggest problem (Rom. 5:6-10). 
  • We can demonstrate the most powerful attraction of discipleship (John 13:34).
  • His kingdom will never be utterly shaken or destroyed (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28). 
  • The recent crisis has awakened a sense of purpose in so many Christians.
  • Heaven is as desirable as ever and hell as unwelcome (cf. Mat. 25:31-46).
  • We know we are bigger than pettiness, division, and senseless strife (1 Cor. 1:10-13). 
  • Man still senses that life is bigger than a few years on this earth (Ecc. 12:13-14).
  • Hope still serves as an anchor for the soul (Heb. 6:19). 
  • The world has no viable competition to what only Jesus can give (1 John 4:4; 5:4). 
  • We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices (2 Cor. 2:11).
  • There is no substitute for fellowship, the assembly, and corporate worship and study (Heb. 10:24).
  • We may appreciate the importance of relationships like never before (Rom. 12:3-21).

Truly, this list is much longer, but suffice it to serve as a reminder that these need not be “the worst of times.” God can make them the best of times as we move forward, eyes fixed on eternity and the wonderful work between here and there. Let’s seize those opportunities (Gal. 6:10)! 

Saturday morning’s Ladies Retreat with guest speaker, Whitney Watson, of Corsicana, TX. Over 60 were in attendance Friday and Saturday.
The Prime Objective

The Prime Objective

Such powerful words describe it.  The words “convert,” “save,” “restore,” “recover,” and the like depict the job God left Christians to do (cf. Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:26; Js. 5:19-20; etc.).  The awesome business of God’s people is to be builders in the kingdom upon a foundation originating in eternity (1 Cor. 3:9-15).  Each child of God is a private engaged in spiritual warfare against a tactician only God has the power to defeat (Eph. 6:10ff).

There is ample reason to be filled with excitement and dread at the task before us!  God has entrusted the business of snatching souls out of eternal fire and transferring people out of darkness into His marvelous light to us earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).  The moment we come out of the waters of baptism, we rise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).  That life entails culling out negative things, bad habits, poor attitudes, old ways of living.  Yet, it also calls for actions and ambitions that a non-Christian could not begin to comprehend.  The sign of genuine faith taken root is the desire to share the good news we ourselves have learned.

Soul-winning is the frontline focus of the family of God.  All else that we do should be an extension or support of this primary work.  Benevolence, though done simply for its own sake, can be a springboard of evangelistic opportunity.  Fellowship is designed to not only build up the saints, but be an atmosphere — be it worship or fellowship outside the corporate assemblies— that honors God and creates hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Non-Christians who come to our assemblies can then believe (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23-24).  They share our company, see the light of Christ in us, and want the joy and peace that the world cannot provide (John 14:27; Mat. 5:16).  

Everywhere we go, mingling in groups and having various associations, there are opportunities.  There is that person who seems to stand out from others who are more frivolously engaged in life.  There is the one who, when others have long shut their ears to truth, is open-minded enough and respectful enough of truth to believe and accept the Bible.  A song that is used in many soul-winning campaigns is Lead Me To Some Soul Today.  God is not going to “lay” anything miraculously on our heart, leading us through some direct operation to some particular person or to say some particular thing.  Yet, providentially, He can open doors that leads us to find the one in search of God’s way.  Our active desire should be to cultivate our hunger and optimism for this great, primary work of the church.

With all else to distract us or compete with our attention and affection, may we never forget the prime objective! We are saved to save (2 Tim. 2:2). Find the searcher and lead the lost! It’s why we’re here.