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discipline perseverance success work

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

Categories
government politics priorities priority Uncategorized United States unity

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. 
Categories
Christian living Christianity New Testament Christianity Uncategorized

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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Categories
discipline self-control self-denial Uncategorized

Discipline Yourself For The Purpose Of Godliness

Neal Pollard

Two weeks ago today, Wes Autrey and I decided to hold each other accountable for eating better and losing some pounds. The daily check in that accompanies this requires me to pay attention to how much and what I eat and pushes me to make sure I go work out. The single most difficult element of this challenge is the discipline.

It’s interesting that the word translated “discipline” in 1 Timothy 4:7-8 literally means “to train.” The Greek word is the one from which we get our English word “gymnasium.” The adjective form is translated “naked,” the figurative sense meaning “manifest” or “unconcealed” (Kittel-Bromiley 133). While the Greeks would exercise naked, the verb form came to mean “to concentrate” (ibid.). So when Paul says, “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (4:7), he is calling for utmost concentration and conscious training in order to achieve godliness. Louw-Nida remind us that godliness refers to “appropriate beliefs and devout practice of obligations relating to supernatural persons and powers” (530). It is driven by a profound respect for God because of who He is and what He deserves.

The motivation Paul gives the Christian for exercising godliness is the unsurpassed value it gives us.  He contrasts the value of godliness with bodily exercise. I do not believe Paul is saying it’s a total waste of time to exercise. After all, it does do “a little good.” It helps us function and feel better for a good while in these bodies God gave us. But by comparison, godliness is far superlative. People can look at our lives and see the fruit of it while we live on this earth, but it also leads us to eternal life.

Godliness is the goal, the motivation. Discipline is the means to that end. In context, Paul calls for discipline to be built through proper diet (“being nourished on the words of faith and of…sound doctrine,” 4:6), proper exercise (“labor and strive,” 4:10), proper focus (“we have fixed our hope,” 4:10), and consistency (“show yourself an example,” 4:12; “give attention,” 4:13; etc.).

Wes and I hope that the results of our herculean efforts “will be evident to all” (cf. 4:15). It will require us to “take pains” and to “be absorbed” in our goal (cf. 4:15). Certainly, it means paying close attention to ourselves (4:16). Much more than that, you and I must direct our attention to the proper beliefs and practices that will get us to heaven and influence those who are around us (4:16). Remember that discipline is about training, a process that must be repeated, perfected, and continued. But, the payoffs cannot be matched! How’s your discipline?

Categories
desire singing worship zeal

Desire That Bubbles From The Heart And Falls From The Lips

“To see the dull indifference, the negligent and thoughtless air that sits upon the faces of a whole assembly, while the psalm is upon their lips, might even tempt a charitable observer to suspect the fervency of their inward religion.” This quotation was from a man who observed lethargy and unenthusiastic engagement in congregational singing. He decried a lack of apparent passion and zeal for God and spiritual things in this act of worship that is meant to be profound and transforming. The observer, as far as is known, was not a New Testament Christian, but he was responsible for giving us “Joy to the World,” “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross,” and over 500 more hymns. He complained about the lifeless hymns being sung in his day, and his father, who would be jailed for dissenting from the Church of England, challenged him to come up with a solution. All those hymns, which he started writing in adolescence, was his answer. Isaac Watts can be considered an expert on religious hymns, and he revolutionized congregational singing for especially English speakers. The fact that we still sing some of his hymns demonstrates that.

But, his observation in later life about indifference, negligence, and thoughtlessness from  those presumably worshipping is a fair challenge to each of us. Especially when we are singing songs so familiar to us, which we know by heart, we must guard against lips that say one thing and hearts which do not necessarily reflect those words. Is it possible to sing about Jesus’ death on the cross or God’s great love or the amazing hope of heaven or an examination of my Christian life and commitment without reflecting and contemplating? Could I be thinking about something while singing something else? The gamut might run from empty religion to understandable distraction, but we must challenge ourselves to keep our hearts and minds on the words and meaning of those psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (cf. Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19).  Let us cultivate desire in the heart that bubbles from the lips as we praise God and encourage one another in our song service.

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Andy Baker leading a group in singing (photo credit: John Moore)
Categories
culture Current Events hope nation opportunity peace Uncategorized United States unity

What To Do When Faced With A Sinking Ship

Neal Pollard

The ship is breaking apart. The timbers of civility. Crack! The planks of morality. Splinter!  The mast of critical thinking. Pop! As we hope to stay afloat, we cannot help but feel growing apprehension over the current state of our society. It’s not a matter of preserving or plastering over a past. It’s a matter of preserving peace in the present, but only if that means God’s people are serious about sharing the only possible remedy–Jesus! Yet, as it increasingly seems our country is ratcheted by prejudice, hatred, division, and rancor, we see the tranquility and calm from so many quarters threatened with the dark storms of violence and uncertainty.

In Acts 27, Paul was with 275 other passengers on a boat bound for Rome from Caesarea, and its captain decided to test the Mediterranean Sea at a turbulent time. A violent storm, known as Euraquilo, caught the ship and ultimately battered it to pieces. It must have been an apprehensive time for the passengers and crew. Luke says the wind was violent, the ship was driven, the sun and moon didn’t appear for days, violently storm-tossed, they incurred damage and loss, and that all hope of their being saved was gradually abandoned. I cannot imagine the helpless, vulnerable feeling they must have felt. At least not literally.

It would be easy to let our national unrest and storminess tempt us to act irrationally (like some on Paul’s ship were tempted) or to give in to fear. But, Paul did five things we should do as we try to respond to the current turbulence.

  • He listened to God (Acts 27:23-24). Nobody else had a better or equal solution to their dire problem. The only way to be saved was to listen to God. Paul sought to persuade the people of this. In the ruckus and tumultuous noise, listen harder to God’s Word! It’s an anchor in stormy waters.
  • He believed God’s Word (Acts 27:25). It’s one thing to comprehend something, but quite another to put your trust in it. What God promised must have seemed quite far-fetched, that this way would save everyone. But, Paul didn’t waver. He said, “I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told” (25). We are surrounded by people who need to witness our faith. As many as are persuaded will escape a shipwreck of faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19).
  • He encouraged hope (Acts 27:21-26). Despite the foolishness of their leaders, these people were given a message of hope. Paul says, “Keep up your courage!” (22,25). Despite the frightfulness of the moment, Paul offered a possible escape. Right now, you and I are uniquely positioned to give the only true hope available. It’s like an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19)!
  • He warned the disobedient (Acts 27:31-32). There were those trying to break from God’s Word and will and do things another way. They were trying to take matters into their own hands. Paul spoke up against this! Such was defiance against the divine plan. What a message for us, who justify their sins rather than repent of them. We need to keep the message of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come before people (Acts 24:25).
  • He prayed faithfully (Acts 27:35). In this ordeal, Paul was a public example of prayer. Read every epistle of Paul’s and you’ll see his faithfulness in and dependency upon prayer. He appealed to the God he knew was the only hope for salvation. How much are we praying about the turmoil in our country (and world)? How much do those around us believe that we are dependent upon God?

Instead of focusing on the frightful winds currently blowing, let’s focus on the One who can calm the storm. Let’s get others to join us in that focus. Whatever happens to our nation, we must save as many souls as possible!

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Categories
contentment faith happiness joy Uncategorized

Happiness Guaranteed!

Neal Pollard

Who wouldn’t find that appealing? Many years ago, Hugo McCord wrote a book entitled, “Happiness Guaranteed.” In it, he wrote, “Is happiness difficult? Yes, to those on the wrong road. Is it elusive? Yes, to those who want it without a price. But to the simple, plain folk of the earth, willing to walk God’s road, willing to pay God’s price, happiness is, like God, not far from every one of us.”  Many spend a lifetime in a desperate, elusive attempt to be happy. What if there was a formula for true happiness? I believe we find it in Psalm 37:23-26. This text tells us what we need to be happy.

We need a direction mapped by God (23). If we make life a self-guided tour, we can guarantee ourselves a life of misery. Even a Christian’s heartaches often stem from our trying to “go it alone” without His guidance. He guides us through the Word (Psa. 119:105,133). He knows everything at the deepest level of comprehension. He understands what kind of life will make us happy and miserable. David says life without God’s guidance is chaotic and disorderly. I read about an optometrist who examined an elderly patient and asked, “Can you read the fifth line of the chart?” “No.” “How about the fourth line?” “No.” “Hmm. Try the second line.” “No.” “Surely you can read the first line.” The old man said, “Truth is I’ve never learned to read.” Have we learned to read? Have we gotten into the regular habit of consulting God’s divine roadmap?

We need a delight in His way (23). In a matter of minutes, you can find out what a person enjoys in life. It could be sports, politics, travel, shopping, mechanic-ing, nature, reading, fishing, horseback riding, or stamp-collecting. Kept in proper place and priority, these can be good, healthy, and legitimate. But way too many people get their thrills in illegitimate ways. They enjoy the unwholesome, filthy, perverted and vulgar. To many, “The word of the Lord is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it” (Jer. 6:10). Solomon adds, “A fool does not delight in understanding…” (Prov. 18:2a). God’s outline for living, when followed, leads to delight. Other ways are paved with the heartache of others who foolishly paved those same paths previously.

We need a dependence on God’s providential care (24-25). Seven times in the Psalms, the writer tells God, “The righteous trust in You” (5:11; 9:10; 17:7; 25:22; 31:19; 55:23; 56:3). Your faith can be built if you trust that God, even when things seem doubtful, will provide what is needed and what is best. Not just materially, but in times when spiritual decisions must be made (cf. Gen. 22:8; Rom. 4:18-21). When we place our future, fears and fortunes in God’s almighty hands, we find true happiness (1 Pet. 5:7). David challenges us to find a case of a true follower forsaken by God. Satan wants us to think God doesn’t care about us. That’s what he wanted Job’s problems to do to Job—make him turn against God. If you are suffering right now, be assured that God hasn’t left you.

We need a duty to others (26). Norman Vincent Peale said, “The way to happiness: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry. Live simply, expect little, give much. Scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others. Try this for a week and you will be surprised” (The Power of Positive Thinking, 54). Psalm 37:26 mentions two responsibilities we, being richly blessed by God, have to others. The  first, mercy, should express itself through acts of kindness. The second, lending, shows generosity. God ties generosity to true conversion. We give our money, our time, our talents, our heart, and ourselves. Listen to the joyful words from those spend themselves serving others. They say, “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done” (Lk. 17:10).

We overcomplicate life with needless worry, harmful actions, and heavy burdens. So many people, from a financial, social, and physical perspective, have every reason to be happy but are miserable! The opposite of that is true, too. One may be drained of every resource but faith, but no one can rob them of their joy (Ps. 128:2; Pr. 3:18; 14:21; 29:18)!

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Categories
church church (nature) church function politics Uncategorized

Caesar’s Citizen Headline: “The Jerusalem Church Splits Over Politics!”

Neal Pollard

Barak monitored the results of the latest Imperial policies out of Rome. And he hashed it and rehashed it with his brethren at the fellowship meals, on his job at the fish market, and definitely, with vehemence, within his inner circle of friends and family.  Elchanan came from a long line of zealots, and, although he had become a Christian several years before, his leanings and passion about the matter were well-known to anyone who spent any time with him. Michael, Zechariah, and Esther voiced their empathy for Elchanan’s position, while Gaius, Claudia, Junius, and Manius, ever loyal to the politics of their native homeland, aligned themselves with Barak. Unfortunately, they all also were Christians who worshipped together or in neighboring congregations around Jerusalem. They got so caught up in it that they marched, they protested, they pledged allegiance with oaths, they argued, and they held one another in contempt and suspicion. Meanwhile, Jews and Gentiles all around them lived and died without hearing the message of Jesus and the purpose He died to make available to them. They did not associate those early Christians with love. They had no clue about the heart of the gospel message, the good news they needed in the unstable times in which they lived. They failed to see distinctiveness and kindness. They saw a mirrored reflection of their unregenerate selves. Mired in the smallness of contemporary concern, the church at Jerusalem, distracted from their mission, never taught lost souls, devoted themselves to service, or lived lives that showed utmost trust in Jesus and His power to save and transform. Predictably, these small bands of disciples circled their chariots around themselves and hid their lights under their baskets.

That’s not quite the way Luke records it. Politics was a constant, headline news matter in the first century. There was volatility and polarization. With the theatre and stadiums, there were no shortages of entertainment diversions, too. But, reading the book of Acts, you find a quickly growing band of disciples reaching the thousands in number precisely because they stayed above the sensual fray of politics or any other ephemeral concerns. They understand what lasted and what wouldn’t. From the first verse that records their collective activity, they were “devoted” (Acts 2:42). Their devotion was powerfully, primarily, and passionately Jesus and His will.

It doesn’t matter that we’re 2000 years removed from that, or that our situation isn’t exactly parallel. Our mission hasn’t changed. Our primary focus must be the same as theirs. Ever wonder who benefits the most from our getting mired in the mud of these carnal things? It isn’t Jesus!

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