The God Of The Mountains And Valleys

The God Of The Mountains And Valleys

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

*main points adapted from Wayne Burger. 

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah performed the impossible through God. In this chapter we learn that a drought has occurred in the land. Elijah had just asked Obadiah to tell the King that he was there. Elijah goes before the king and tells him that he is the reason for the drought. Elijah has had enough and calls them all together at Mount Caramel. It is here that God through Elijah lights the water-soaked altar and all the prophets of Baal are slain. 

Elijah in 1 Kings 18 was on the mountaintop with God. He showed the idolatrous people the power of the Almighty. He proved without a shadow of a doubt that God is king, and idols have nothing on the living God! 

We go from this incredible victory in chapter 18 to Elijah running scared for his life in the very next chapter. From the mountaintop, to the valley. And there’s one constant that remained for Elijah: God. 

In 1 Kings 19, we learn the the cure to discouragement. The chapter begins with Elijah receiving a message from Queen Jezebel. This messenger tells Elijah that Jezebel has sworn to kill him by this time tomorrow. Of course, Elijah is afraid and he runs. 

Elijah is in the wilderness, running for his life, and all he wants to do is die. Just 24 hours earlier, he had performed the greatest miracle through God, and now he’s scared for his life and on the run. So what’s the solution? 

The next time we find ourselves in a situation like Elijah, remember to: 

  1. Tell God (1 Kings 19:10) 
  2. Tell Him what’s on your mind. God knew why Elijah was in the wilderness, but He wanted Elijah to admit it with his own mouth. When you’re in the valley, talk to God.
  3. Eat a meal (1 Kings 19:6)
  4. Get strength to carry on. Comfort food can work miracles. 
  5. Have a job (1 Kings 19:15)
  6. Get going. Elijah couldn’t just stay in the forest for the rest of his life! He had a job to do. And so do we. There are souls that are lost, friends that need encouraging, families that need us. 
  7. Have a friend (1 Kings 19:19). Elisha would carry on the torch for Elijah. Elijah not only had God, he had Elisha. God will always be there for us, but he also gives us close friends to lean on. 

If you ever find yourself in the valley, remember to talk to God, eat a meal, remember your purpose, and don’t do it alone. 

There’s a Great Day Coming

There’s a Great Day Coming

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail 

Dale Pollard

For the past six days Russia has made significant advancements on several strategic locations in Ukraine. Every news outlet is showing photos and videos of devastation that has already occurred, and it’s predicted to escalate still. There are complicated foreign policies being discussed over topics like NATO, sanctions, and the effects on the rest of the world after Putin’s recklessness. 

Many countries are mad, some indifferent, while some cheer on their favorite country like it’s their favorite sports team. It’s chaotic and it’s concerning, but it’s not the Christian’s long-term problem. If this earth was our eternal home then I would be biting my nails and losing my hair. However, Christians all over the world should take comfort in the fact that heaven is a place where there is no war. We should remind each other that in order to make it, we are not required to be Republicans or Democrats. There are two camps in this world, but those aren’t it. The two groups are those who are lost and those who are saved. When you look at your TV or maybe out of your window and you see the death and carnage, we aren’t witnessing the death of heroes and villains. We’re watching souls walk through the door of eternity.

 Our focus is easily pulled away from the reality that is only seen through a spiritual lens but it’s the reality that matters the most. The lyrics of two hymns have been strung together in my mind this week, “There’s a Great Day coming and this world’s not my home.”

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12.19 

Focusing In Worship

Focusing In Worship

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

As humans we have a hard time when it comes to focusing. Attention spans seem to be getting shorter and shorter. Goldfish have an attention span of about 5 seconds. I’m convinced that mankind will one day be on the same level if nothing changes. 

While focus in our everyday lives can be a struggle, what about in worship? How can we improve our focus when we come together each week? Before we even assemble, we should be preparing to focus on worship. 

Isaiah 29:13 says, “…Because this people draw near with their words, And honor Me with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

They drew near to God with words, just like we do in singing songs each Sunday. 

They honored God with their lips, much like we do in our prayers each week. What they were saying sounded good! But, if our hearts are not in worship, we have failed God. 

Isaiah writing on God’s behalf says that their “reverence consisted of tradition learned by rote.” This word reverence is the the Hebrew word for “fear.” You may have heard that every time you read the word “fear” in the Bible to replace it with the word “respect” or “reverence.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hebrew language has a word for respect, and this isn’t it. It means literal fear. 

In fact, the Greek equivalent of this word is Phobos, which is where we get our English word phobia. For example, if you have arachnophobia you have a fear of spiders. If you saw a spider crawling on your leg, and you are afraid of spiders, you’re not going to look at it and go, “I respect you.” That’s not how fear works; you’re going to use any means necessary to dispatch the threat. 

So we are supposed to worship in fear? YES. 

Focus out of fear and awe of WHO we are worshipping. We are singing to the creator. 

We are praying to the God who parted seas, spoke the world into existence, and guided the Israelites with a pillar of fire. We are worshipping the King of Kings, the Great I AM, the Alpha and Omega, the One with no beginning or end, we are bowing down before the Most Holy God of the Universe. 

If we realize what we are doing in worship, we can’t help but feel a little fear. Isaiah says, their worship was done through traditions learned “by rote.” This literally means, “Mechanical or habitual repetition.” We may be physically singing and look like we are worshipping God, but only the individual and God above know what is going on in the heart. 

Isa. 12:5 “sing to the Lord.” This requires FOCUS, not mindlessly singing songs. 

There are songs for each other, and songs directed toward God. “I want to be a worker for the Lord” …do we mean it? We can’t sing “Stand up, stand up for Jesus” on Sunday when all throughout the week all we’ve done is sit down. Focus on the words. 

God would rather hear a tone deaf person who sings with their heart and mind, then a classically trained singer who only focuses on what it sounds like to them. Sunday morning worship comes once a week; it can be easy to let it turn into a mindless habit. Train your mind to focus on every act of worship. Don’t let worship become something we do out of tradition or habit. Focus on WHO we have come together to worship. 

Why The Wine?

Why The Wine?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Noah plants a grape vineyard (Gen. 9). 

He makes wine. 

He gets drunk. 

When did he plant the vineyard? 

It wasn’t before the destruction of the world. There’s no time for vineyard planting when you’re focused on the end. 

He didn’t get drunk while on board the ark, either. There’s no time to get drunk when you’re well aware that God is literally keeping you afloat! He could hear God’s power in the storm and see it all around him in the form of water when he peers out of the window of the ark. 

He planted the vineyard after the rain stopped, the water levels lowered, and when there was dry ground to plant on. 

Why the wine? 

While scripture doesn’t give us an exact reason we can use some reasoning. Maybe he drank his fill in order to forget or deal with the traumatic event that he just survived. Maybe the reality of the situation finally set in and the ordeal had finally caught up with him. 

Perhaps he drank the wine to simply distract himself. It could be that in his mind he had fulfilled his purpose and accomplished his mission. What else was there to do? Lastly, maybe he became drunk to celebrate the fact that he and his family survived what nobody else did. All of these reasons are possible and even understandable. But none of these excuses were acceptable or pleasing to his Savior. 

Trouble seems to come knocking when we lose our sense of purpose and mission. I think Noah would agree that we’re more easily distractible when we believe we have the time to be distracted. Noah’s real purpose in life was not to build an ark. It was to live righteously, as he was doing just that before God even approached him. A righteous man listens to God and speaks on behalf of God as Noah did when he built the ark and preached to the world around him. His mission wasn’t over when the ark landed in the mountains. According to Genesis 9.28, Noah had 350 years of life remaining after the flood. His celebration and relief, like ours, is promised to be waiting for us after our lives on earth are completed. Noah still had a mission and purpose, but he had just forgotten what that was. Let’s learn from him and be mindful of why we’re here— to live within the grace of God (Gen. 6.8). 

Parkour

Parkour

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

What is faith? I don’t have faith in my parkour abilities. My lack of faith comes from several factors: basic safety awareness, physique, and reality. Because of this, I have little or no confidence in my ability to scale walls. Faith is rational confidence. We’re confident about things we understand and have experience or proficiency with.

Faith in God is confidence. We’re confident that God exists. We’re confident that he made everything. We know he loves us. We know he’s coming back. We know that faithful people get to live with him.

A faithful Christian is a rationally confident Christian. When we’re doing our best to live moral lives, we’re confident in grace. We’re confident in our destination. We have reason to have confidence in God because we’ve worked on knowing him. We have the Bible and creation itself to help us know God. The more we know him, the more confidence we have.

What if I want more confidence in my parkour abilities? I’d have to hit the gym like crazy and somehow become graceful. I’d have to want to develop that skill. Confidence comes from experience and knowledge.

What if we need more faith? Get to know God more. Pay attention to all of the ways life points to a much higher power. Get close to other Christians. Get excited for heaven. No one can walk away from that without more confidence in our awesome God.

“Calm Thyself”

“Calm Thyself”

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

It’s a jungle out there, so here’s some friendly reminders:

  1. We’re here for a short time, not a long time (James 4.14).
  2. God ultimately controls the outcome of November 3rd (Romans 13.1).
  3. This earth is fallen anyway and we’re looking forward to something way better (II Peter 3.10).
  4. We have more pressing matters to attend to (Ephesians 2.10; 4.11; Matthew 28.18ff).
  5. We’re ambassadors, not crusaders (II Corinthians 5.11ff).
  6. Mercy always trumps a condemning attitude (James 2.11ff). Contextually, this is about not showing favoritism based on appearance or status. A broader application concerning our attitude toward others in general is appropriate.
  7. Our attitudes may well be what condemns or saves a lost soul (Philippians in general, but specifically 2.5-11).
  8. Don’t be rude to people, but especially not to those in our spiritual family (Galatians 6).
  9. What we do about our beliefs speaks far more powerfully than what we say about our beliefs, and that can be amazing or especially harmful (James 2.18).
  10. Revelation 22.20!
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So What?

So What?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Here’s a quick recap of the bizarre events that unfold in Acts 20:

 

  • Paul preaches past midnight.
  • A young man named Eutychus falls asleep.
  • As a result, he plummets to his death.
  • He is then miraculously brought back to life.

 

 

 

So what?

Each word that was written in Scripture was penned under God’s guidance— for our guidance. This means that even those accounts that might initially strike us as pointless are, in truth, spiritually-pointed.

With this is in mind, let’s briefly examine three life lessons from Eutychus that deliver relevant reminders for the 21st-century Christian.

  1. A lesson on Commonsense: God is with His people. God protects His people, but we still read of a young man who sits where he shouldn’t have. As a result, he tumbles to his death. Unfortunate things can happen to godly people, especially in the absence of commonsense.
  2. A Lesson On Commitment: This account is not a call for preachers to shorten their sermons, or even a warning for members who might be tempted to take a nap in worship. While Eutychus may not be the first guy that comes to mind when we think of a Bible character who demonstrated commitment— he still made it a priority to be with his Christian family. He held on, even though it was clearly past his bedtime. How many of us have stayed away from services simply because we don’t feel like it? How many Christians find themselves struggling to remain focused in a one hour period of worship? There is something to be said for this man’s commitment to Christ— even as the hours ticked by and exhaustion began to take its toll on him.
  3. A Lesson On Correction: Though I would not want to be immortalized in history as the guy who fell out of a window in church, this potential tragedy became a powerful testimony of God’s grace. God does not expect total perfection, but rather our constant correction. When we take a tumble spiritually, what corrections can we implement to avoid the same mistake in the future?

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ROUTINE IS EXTRAORDINARY

ROUTINE IS EXTRAORDINARY

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

It was my privilege last week to spend an hour or more visiting in my office with Bill Page, a longtime member at Lehman Avenue. He wanted to tell me about his interest and involvement in athletics, and he brought some pictures (including one of him below) to illustrate his interesting stories. There was a theme to everything this 88-year-old Korean War veteran shared with me. It was about routine.

He spoke of how important routine is in his life. Every day, despite being a widower who lives alone, he follows a strict routine from how and when he gets up to his workout regimen to his social calendar. It is not just that he has a routine, but he feels that it is essential to his functioning well physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. He carries that ethic of keeping a routine into sharing his faith with his neighbors, studying the Bible, and teaching as he is given the opportunity. Though he is modest and unassuming, he has lived anything but a routine life. 

He played college basketball at Georgia Southern (then, Georgia Teachers College). Then, he was a marine who stayed to play in Japan and Korea in the mid-1950s. His civilian career was as a school administrator, where he served in public schools locally in addition to many years working with Christian high schools in Houston, Texas, and Miami, Florida. He also maintained his love for sports, coaching basketball. But, as a lifelong member of the church, his routine has almost always included teaching, preaching, and sharing his faith with the non-Christians he has built relationships with.

I could say much more about the great attitude and outlook Bill has, but it’s that commitment to consistency that is so remarkable. What is the road to greatness and achievement? It necessitates a certain amount of talent and knowing what that talent is, but the difference is almost always made by those who have sticktoitiveness. The unwillingness to give up and to keep plugging away is such a difference-maker in success and failure.

Solomon said, “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, But the hand of the diligent makes rich” (Prov. 10:4). Likewise, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty” (Prov. 21:5). Again, “In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty” (Prov. 14:23). Over and over, Scripture lauds this ethic of steadfastness. Yet, the area where it is most important is the spiritual (Acts 2:42; 2 Tim. 2:15). 

Do you want to be an exceptional Bible student, servant of Christ, person of prayer, spiritual leader, soul winner, etc.? Establish a routine and stay with it. It will lead you to extraordinary results! Thanks for the reminder and the example, Bill!

Bill Page

Knowing What D.C. Stands For

Knowing What D.C. Stands For

Neal Pollard

Inasmuch as we don’t want laws or policies enacted that violate God’s Word and we want precious freedoms, especially religious ones, preserved and protected, we can really get into what is going on in Washington, from Capitol Hill to Pennsylvania Avenue. Many know that “D.C.” is an abbreviation for “District of Columbia,” an area of land created at about the time of our nation’s founding under the direct jurisdiction of the U.S. Congress that is not a state.

However, as politics has vied for sports and entertainment as an idol in our culture, it has become the source of unnecessary and even immoral strife between Christians. Blind support and allegiance for one major political party or the other can do more than make us inconsistent. It can make us a stumbling block. It seems to me that D.C. can stand for some dangerously different things.

Distracted Christians. Search high and low in your New Testaments, written during the time of the wicked, often unfair-to-Christians, Roman Empire.  The disciples were about the business of evangelism (Acts 8:4) and growing the church (Acts 6:7). Can the rumblings and drama from the nation’s capitol get us so transfixed that we cannot see past it or through it to our individual and collective mission as God’s people? He has us here to get people into the Kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13). Everything else is secondary. 

Divided Churches. For as long as I’ve been preaching, I’ve seen politics come between brethren in the local church. Thankfully, it does not usually become significant enough to trouble the entire congregation but I have seen it do so. What’s more, I’ve seen brothers and sisters become so confrontational and flagrant about politics–especially through the relatively recent medium of social media–that it has been a stumbling block to new and weak Christians. Perhaps the political world in our country has never been so intensely divisive as it currently is, and what typically troubles the world troubles the church. But, when souls are negatively impacted, God will hold the offenders accountable. 

Devil’s Cauldron. Please don’t misunderstand. Politics, like money, is a neutral matter. But, like money, it can become the root of all sorts of evil (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10)–enmities, strife, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, and factions (Gal. 5:20). Just prior to this list of activities that are the carrying out of the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16), Paul warns, “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another” (Gal. 5:14-15). Who benefits when things like politics distract and divide Christians? It is not the lost, the church, or the Lord!

I can think of a least three godly, wonderful Christians who are public servants in political office and making a profound impact for good–Bill Reiboldt, Sheila Butt, and John DeBerry. They demonstrate that God’s people can devote themselves to politics without sacrificing their faith and example. For those of us “on the outside looking in,” in our love of country and freedom, may we never allow our attitude, words, or actions to betray our highest calling. The more effectively we reach lost souls, reflect the mind of Christ, and reveal the hope of the gospel, the better our nation (and world) will become. What will that make us? Disciples of Christ!

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From my last trip to Washington, a few summers ago. 

What’s The Point?

What’s The Point?

Neal Pollard

Years ago, Wes Autrey sent me a copy of the “Idiot Report.” To this day, I still wonder why he thought of me as he read something with that title. I found all the entries hilarious, but one attributed to a Wichita probation officer was particularly funny. This august report said, “the stoplight on the corner buzzes when it’s safe to cross the street. I was crossing with one of my coworkers, who asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, “What on earth are blind people doing driving?” Hopefully, you get where she missed the purpose of the corner buzzer. If not…

How many miss the point of Christianity? The decision to become a Christian is the best and most important decision this side of time. Living the Christian life is the best life to live. Worshipping the living God is a privilege that is awe-inspiring and of unsurpassed joy. Prayer is a lifeline without which none of us should feel equipped. Bible study with an eye toward applying its truths is vital to growing stronger and closer to God.

To go through life as a Christian filled with fear, sadness, anxiety, envy, anger, apathy or resentment really misses the point of what it means to be in Christ. That does not mean that we will automatically be immune from any of these feelings and attitudes. In fact, all of us will be confronted by them throughout life. But, if we spend a lifetime given in to these things, we have missed the point! Being in Christ means having the only true access to courage, happiness, trust, satisfaction, peace, zeal and acceptance that there is. We could go so many places in the New Testament which affirm this, but just look at Ephesians one. In Christ are the faithful saints (1:1), every spiritual blessing (1:3), election (1:4), grace (1:6), redemption (1:7), all-sufficiency (1:10), hope (1:12), the seal of the Holy Spirit (1:13), and strength (1:19-20). We have a forgotten past, a purposeful present, and a hopeful future in Christ!

The world’s values and thinking are backward (cf. Isa. 5:20). Do not fall prey to their convoluted way of thinking. We are Christians! We know why we are here and where we are going! That’s the point!

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