Launching Audacious Dreams

Launching Audacious Dreams

Neal Pollard

I was too young to remember any of the Apollo missions (the first moon landing was six months before my birth). As a child of the ’80s, I remember the NASA space shuttle missions (there was a total of 135 of them) including the two disastrous ones. In 2021, a new era is underway. This one is being driven, not by government, but by private funding. This new chapter in space flight and exploration is a space race between well-known billionaires, Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), Jeff Bezos (Blue Origin), and Elon Musk (SpaceX). I missed Sir Richard’s flight in the rocket plane, Unity, on July 11th. But this morning I watched the entire maiden voyage of Bezos’ rocket, New Shepard, as he reached a height of 66.5 miles in the suborbital flight carrying Jeff, brother Mark, and both the oldest and youngest people to fly into space (Oliver Daeman is 18 and aviation pioneer Wally Funk is 82). From take off to touch down, the flight took 11 minutes.

These new ventures, like their predecessors, are sure to fire the imagination of the next generation, develop new technology, and generate national pride. The new frontier, for now, seems to be to launch space tourism. It dawned on me that those bankrolling these ventures and putting in the time and manpower to realize these goals creates multiple challenges to overcome.

It’s hard. 
It’s expensive.
It’s risky.
It’s frustrating.

Sure, there was a little flight training for the four passengers of New Shepard (classroom instruction, demonstrations, and practice), but the company website adds these facts: “Blue Origin has been flight testing New Shepard and its redundant safety systems since 2012. The program has had 15 successful consecutive missions including three successful escape tests, showing the crew escape system can activate safely in any phase of flight” (Source). Today’s flight was originally slated for 2018 (Source). Fortune Magazine says that Bezos has spent $5.5 billion of his own money on Blue Origin to this point (Source). Why expend the effort, money, energy, and risk? Men like these billionaires have proven they know what sells and how to turn a profit, but it also taps into the daring and adventure of the human spirit.

The dreams and visions of Joel 2:28-32, fulfilled on Pentecost when the church was established, are the miracles, signs, and wonders by which the apostles proved the truth of their message. In context, those dreams and visions were specific, supernatural demonstrations of the Holy Spirit. But Jesus wants us to share His dream and vision, first articulated in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. We call it the Great Commission. He spelled out the game plan for His apostles in Acts 1:8. Start local, move regional, and end up global. Share the gospel. Reach the lost. Grow the church. Over and over and over again! We’re going to have to dream big and conjure of visions of great things. We serve the same God the apostles did.

But, audacious dreams are hardexpensiverisky, and frustrating. They require us to change and grow. They cost us time, talent, and treasure. They may cost us friendships and relationships. They will include failures and misses as well as successes and hits. Yet, we are reaching higher than even outer space. Our ultimate goal is heaven! 

As impressed as I am with these billionaires’ ambitions for outer space, we are children of the Creator and heirs of the Most High. His resources as infinite. His promises are sure. His mission is clear. Let’s launch ambitious dreams for Him. Lost souls are counting on it! 

Creative Commons: January 23, 2019: NS-10
Platform: New Shepard
Location: West Texas Launch Site
Photographer: Blue Origin
WHY PLANNING IS POWERFUL

WHY PLANNING IS POWERFUL

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

 

 

 

 

 

Neal Pollard

  • It forces us to focus. So often, churches just “do stuff.” We don’t ask who, what, where, when, or how. We don’t ask if the thing is effective, evangelistic, edifying, or empowering. Is it outmoded? Is it merely self-serving? Can it be improved? Planning clarifies. 
  • It makes us intentional. Whether we are looking at what is currently done or what should be done, planning makes us deliberate. Especially is this true when we consider whether or not the activity, program, or work is merely internally-focused (for us) or externally-focused (for lost souls). Do we plan to grow? Reach a tangible number of people each year? Increase the depth of our footprint in the community? If so, how? Specifically how? 
  • It says that leadership is thoughtful. Planning takes precious man hours from the leadership, but how it pays off! Personal analysis, congregational analysis, and biblical analysis require thought. Done well, it will build conviction that doctrine is never to be tampered with, but that methods and means in harmony with Scripture require judgment, discrimination, and scrutiny. Putting thought into the church’s works and needs is Acts 20:28 in motion.
  • It combats chaos. So often, a church’s works lack cohesion and coordination. There are no filters in place to ask if an individual work fits with the church’s vision and mission. Works may be good, but who knows what goes on with them or if they are working. Who is accountable? To whom are they accountable?
  • It expresses discontent with the status quo. It is easy to continue with works, programs, and activities that are already in place and have people managing and executing them. But, most of our methods and means of doing church work need to be evaluated regularly to ask if changes are needed. Change brings discomfort and takes work, but as our resources change–time, talent, treasure–we may find that we are more or less able to engage in the various works of the church. We should always be looking for more and better ways to serve and glorify God. 
  • It is biblical. Jesus had a tangible plan for world evangelism (Acts 1:8). Paul had a tangible plan for growing the church through the missionary journeys (Acts 15:36ff). Look at how 1 Timothy reflects and requires planning to help the Ephesus church (1 Tim. 3:15). Paul had a tangible plan for establishing elders in congregations throughout the island of Crete (Ti. 1:5ff). Something that was in God’s mind in the eternity before time (Eph. 3:9-11) deserves our best effort, using our brightest minds to find biblical ways that are most effective to grow and strengthen it! 

Goals, dreams, intentions, and ideas will not, by themselves, accomplish anything. We must work to make those things a reality. But, a crucial first step is to articulate where we want to go. That makes planning so powerful! 

What Is The Church To Be?

What Is The Church To Be?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Conceived of in God’s mind in the eternity before time (Eph. 3:9-11), purchased by Jesus’ blood (Acts 20:28), spoken of as the body (Eph. 1:22-23) and bride (Rev. 19:7) of Christ, and described as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), the church is valued and treasured by Him. As members of that church, we might develop a distorted picture of what the church should look, feel, think, and act like in our ever-changing world. What is the church to be?
A Museum? Is the church meant to be a relic of the past, a historical marker where the past is revisited, revered, and enshrined? No doubt, we stand on the shoulder of great workers and warriors of the past, but we are not meant to devote our focus to days gone by. It is but a slight renovation to go from museum to mausoleum.  Our best days should be ahead!

A Marketplace? Some see the church as a direct reflection of the culture. Stands on moral, social, and doctrinal issues are dictated by the views of the moment. “Change” is the key word, and selling the gospel becomes the preeminent goal (John 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:3). A church built foremost on society rests upon sand (Mat. 7:26-27). 

A Monastery? The church–though a haven from the craziness of the world–can become insulated and isolated. It is great to let our closest friendships and relationships to be fellow Christians, but we can become so secluded and shut off that we become a cloister that ceases to be soul-winners. Our worship services and Bible classes can be so full of insider language that the unchurched have no idea what we say much less what we mean. 

A Movement? Sometimes, we speak of the Restoration Movement whose leaders were trying to get people back to the Bible for “rule” and “practice.” But the New Testament church did not begin on the American Frontier during the Great Awakening or even shortly before it. It is not to be a political, national, or even social movement. To think of it on those terms is to degrade and devalue it. 

It is to be a model, safe to follow and imitate by others because she follows Christ (Mat. 5:13-16; 1 Cor. 11:1). It is to be a militant group, whose weapons build and save and defeat the devil (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-17). It is to be a mission, on a mission for the Master (Mat. 28:18-20; Eph. 4:11-16). It is to be a medicine dispensary, offering salve and healing from the Great Physician (Luke 5:31-32). It should reflect the Master in thought, in tone, in teaching, and target! May we all think more critically about what we think about the church!

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THE DAILY PLANNER

THE DAILY PLANNER

MONDAY COLUMN: “NEAL AT THE CROSS”

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Neal Pollard

It’s the time of year when so many are buying or receiving calendars and planners or using an electronic version of the same. These can be key to organizing our lives, maximizing our time management, and strategizing ways to grow and improve in the future. Good stewardship really demands that you are “making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).

In this task of planning life each day, please consider planning to do the following each and every day of 2020:

  • Tell someone about what Jesus has done for you every day.
  • Tell God how great He is and grateful you are for Him as you pray every day.
  • Let God speak to You through His Word every day.
  • Tell your spouse, children, and family you love them every day.
  • Show someone the servant heart of Jesus in your deeds every day.
  • Do something that will help you look more like Jesus every day.
  • Help people see the joy and satisfaction of living the Christian life every day.
  • Encourage someone (via card, social media, phone, etc.) every day.
  • Compliment someone every day.
  • Examine yourself every day.
  • Provide an example of leadership to someone every day.
  • Invest in someone every day. 
  • Count your blessings every day.

That’s enough to keep idleness from plaguing us, isn’t it? Consider how helpful this will be, not just on January 1, but also March 19, June 6, September 25, and December 30. This life is about overcoming (1 John 5:4), but perseverance is as much about the daily grind as it is the dramatic and grand. Zig Ziglar wrote that “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” How profound! Plan on being a better you and on doing what that requires, day by day. 

Resolutions Reinforcements–#7

Resolutions Reinforcements–#7

Neal Pollard

Already, we have looked at six reinforcements for our resolutions: (1) Specificity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#1), (2) Prayer (Resolutions Reinforcements–#2), (3) Tenacity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#3), (4) Hope (Resolutions Reinforcements–#4), (5) Self-Control (Resolutions Reinforcements—#5), and (6) Accountability (Resolutions Reinforcements–#6). I’d like to close this series of articles with one last tool of support. To keep our resolutions rolling, may I suggest “reading.”

Especially if you are not a reader, that may sound like drudgery. However, consider the fact that God thought it important enough to have His will and thoughts written down in a book. Certainly, the Bible will help shape, encourage, and assist us in every noble goal. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” How do we know what God considers to fall within these categories? We must read His Word (cf. Psa. 119:105).

Whatever your goals, there are probably plenty of books devoted to the subject (cf. Ecc. 12:12). If you have financial, physical, relational, or spiritual goals, seek out books by those of proven ability in those areas. Perhaps you can ask people who are excelling in the areas where you wish to improve what books they’ve read and would recommend. Some time ago when he still lived at home, my son Dale passed along a book one of our deacons, Scott Phillips, shared with him on finances, entitled Rich Dad, Poor Dad. One of my elders, Dean Murphy, recently recommended The Speed of Trust for effective leadership. Rick Randall, a faithful member here, recommended a faith-building resource called The Truth Project. Just yesterday, Mike Vestal encouraged me to read a book by Gary McIntosh on church growth that was relevant to a goal I have regarding Bear Valley. Connect yourself to readers in your congregation and your circle of friends.

The point is, resolutions are about making improvements. Often, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Usually, you’ll have to spit out some bones. Always, you can mine at least some nugget from a book on a subject of your interest that can help you grow. I encourage you to “study up” on ways to maintain and shore up your resolve. Filter it all through the lens of Scripture. Then, most importantly, don’t be a forgetful hearer but rather a doer (cf. Jas. 1:22).

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#6

Resolutions Reinforcements–#6

Neal Pollard

“Who cares?” That is not necessarily an expression of apathy or scorn. All of us need to feel like we have people in our lives who care about us and our wellbeing. Such people should do more than offer positive reaffirmation and reassurance. We benefit from those who keep us honest and are willing to say even the difficult things we need to hear. When we talk about goals and resolutions, we need at least someone whom we seek out to hold us accountable. Accountability, in its strictest sense, means “liable to judgment and punishment” when used of God’s holding mankind accountable (Rom. 3:19; BDAG 1037).  Today, we typically mean by accountable that we are responsible to someone to explain or defend our actions. Am I succeeding or failing? Who will help me accurately assess that?

Augustine of Hippo, in his fourth-century Confessions, wrote, “A brotherly person rejoices on my account when he approves me, but when he disapproves, he is loving me. To such people I will reveal myself. They will take heart from my good traits, and sigh with sadness at my bad ones. My good points are instilled by you and are your gifts. My bad points are my faults and your judgements on them. Let them take heart from the one and regret the other. Let both praise and tears ascend in your sight from brotherly hearts, your censers. …But you Lord…Make perfect my imperfections.” We are well-served to have those willing to disapprove, to sigh, and to render gentle judgment as much as give their positive counterparts.

Do you have someone in your life right now who can help you stay accountable to your goals? Ideally, it would be your spouse, but maybe it’s a trusted friend, a sibling, a local Christian, a church leader, or a parent. Find someone in whom to confide your goals and then establish a system to have them evaluated. Just knowing that someone else knows what you’re aiming at may dramatically improve your likelihood of hitting it.

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Resolutions Reinforcements—#5

Resolutions Reinforcements—#5

Neal Pollard

If this is not one of your resolutions, it is a part of all of them. It is almost a dirty word, if we ponder what it demands. “Self-control.” We call it will power, self-discipline, or restraint, but it invokes those difficult life principles like commitment, duty, and drive. It’s doing a little bit more of what it takes or doing a little less of what you want in order to reach a goal (paying off debt, 10 more minutes in the workout, passing up cake, choosing Bible reading over social media or TV, etc.). The Christian understands that God has called him or her to a life of self-control. In what is really God-control—submitting our hearts and lives to God’s will—we are to live lives that call for self-denial and lead to discipleship. Our resolutions probably take that central truth into consideration.

The word used in the New Testament can seem daunting. The word ἐγκράτεια (enkrateia) means “to exercise complete control over one’s desires and actions” (Louw-Nida 750).  It is daunting because it is exhausting (“exercise”),  exhaustive (“complete”), and extensive (“control over desires and actions”). It leaves no part of me unexplored and unchecked. It takes in the internal and the external.

Yet, it is a mark of the redeemed. You find it in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). You find it in the Christian virtues, which speak of all that is gained or lost depending on whether those things are incorporated into our lives (2 Pet. 1:6). You find it attached to judgment and eternity (Acts 24:25). So, it is something God calls for in our lives anyway.

Pray for self-control. Identify the saboteurs of your self-control and eliminate, avoid, and address them. Be intentional, thinking specifically about the area where self-control is lacking (tongue, temper, tastebuds, etc.) and considering ways to improve there. Acknowledge times when you have succeeded or are succeeding and appreciate how good that feels.

What follows the exercise of self-control is almost always tangible results. Be patient. If you stumble, get back up and keep trying. At the end of that road is success!

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#4

Resolutions Reinforcements–#4

Neal Pollard

Well, it has been nearly a week. Can you remember what your resolutions were? The holidays are over and you’re back in your routine. Life happens and it can eclipse our view of the better self we intended to be. Hopefully, this can be a reminder to regroup and maybe rededicate yourself to those well-thought-out resolutions. One thing that can help is “hope.”

Hope in the Bible is “the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment” (BDAG 319).  Now, with resolutions, we can have a hope that the goals we’ve established can be reached. But in harmony with an earlier reinforcement, we can have a hope grounded in God’s ability to strengthen us and providentially provide for every legitimate goal we have. If our resolutions will make us better Christians and servants in the kingdom, there’s great reason to have hope.

Make sure your goals are reasonable. Otherwise, you cannot have much hope of achieving them. If you have $100,000 in debt and your goal is to be debt-free next month, you won’t have hope to help you. Have intermediate goals that will get you from where you are now toward where you want to be.

You read about hope not only in both Testaments, but in all the different time periods of Bible history. Job longed for it during the early days of earth (Job 7:6). So did Naomi in the period of the Judges (Ruth 1:13). David spoke of it (1 Chronicles 29:15). Hundreds of years later, near the end of recorded Old Testament history, Ezra (10:2) and Esther (9:1) did, too. It features prominently in Israel’s song book (cf. Psa. 42:11). The New Testament frequently talks about it–some 73 times! It is a central driver in people’s lives.  Lean on it to keep you on track and moving toward your goals. Don’t lose hope!

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#2

Resolutions Reinforcements–#2

Neal Pollard

No matter what your goals and objectives are for 2018, the place to begin, work, and end is with God. I have heard it said, “How can we hope to do God’s work without God’s help?” Your resolutions may be seemingly insignificant or potentially life-changing. Regardless, He is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). Do you believe that? Assuming your goals and legitimate and Christ-honoring, doesn’t He care enough about you to help you succeed? Scripture devotes much time to the truth that He is a perfect Heavenly Father who loves His children (Mat. 5:45,48).

Pray specifically and include those resolutions in your daily prayers. Pray in faith, believing that God is able to help you succeed. Know through this that He is in control.  Pray submissively, understanding that God knows what is best for your life. You may believe that achieving some goal will be what you need, but God knows best. Trust Him to provide. Pray unselfishly. While goals may be very personal, they should be made with others and especially God’s will at the forefront. What we seek should be sought for His glory. Pray expectantly, believing that He will help and through Him you can do.

The Bible frequently shows us those who prayed to God through improbable and even seemingly impossible situations, and God provided. Think of Hannah, David, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Paul.  As you square up to face your resolutions, do so by looking–as much as you can–through those Heavenly Eyes. Remember: “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jer. 32:17).

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#1

Resolutions Reinforcements–#1

Neal Pollard

Did you make any resolutions for 2018? Dan Diamond cited a statistic I’ve often found, that over 40% of Americans make them every year and only about 8% succeed (Forbes, 1/1/13). Websites like statisticsbrain.com break it down into all kind of categories, but they amount to body and soul, material and spiritual. If you are among those who have made resolutions for this year, you probably find yours also fitting into those two categories–weight loss, financial health, relationships, and spiritual growth, for example. With the statistical odds against us, we’re going to need help, right? I thought I’d devote some attention to things we can do to reach our goals. It certainly will raise my own accountability, and hopefully it can provide some practical encouragement for you, too.

The first resolutions reinforcement I suggest is “specificity.” Instead of saying, “I will be a better person,” “I will read my Bible more,” “I will get out of debt,” or “I will eat healthier,” take some time to articulate some specific goals. These general ambitions are great, but the more nebulous they are the harder they are to quantify and track. For example, one of my goals is to lose 20 pounds. While I’ve lost those 20 pounds several times through the years, I realize it’s not good for my health for me to carry them around again. With that specific goal, I have a plan. It works whenever I utilize it. It is neither complex or gimmicky. I will count calories (I have an app that helps me track that).

I have taken some time to do that with five specific goals for my year. I wrote each of them down, stated specifically. Each is measurable. My aim is to pull that little list out at least daily and see where I am with each. There are some sensitive, uncomfortable items on that list, but when I revisit it those are the ones I want to achieve the most. That piece of paper allows no justification, excuse-making, or equivocation. It just stares right back at me, ironclad if only in ink.

May I encourage you to pray about this. Here is my prayer for today regarding my goals: “Father, please help me to take specific steps today, tomorrow, and every day to reach these goals. Help me to achieve them so that I can better serve and glorify you.” Here is a reminder of something God has said to us: “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3). 

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