A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

 Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We would all like to improve in many ways, but many of us are also well aware of the flaws we feel are holding us back. Those shortcomings tend to get in the way, slow us down, or even prevent us from achieving the quality of life that we desire. While there is plenty of room for improvement in my life, I have found that there is a simple way to clearly envision where I am currently, and also plan for where I would like to be in the future. 

It’s true that our burdens often come from our blessings. For example, the blessing of having a car may result in the burden of expensive bills that follow a mechanical issue. 

I believe that there are five major buckets of blessings that we all must give our time and attention to. They are the five categories that if purposefully tended to, our lives can be wonderful. On the other hand, if neglected, we find ourselves in a head spinning spiral of worry and anxiety. 

These buckets are: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Mental maturity 
  3. Physical health 
  4. Relationships 
  5. Work 

If one of those buckets isn’t filled with the proper content, I’m sure you’re aware of the negative effects. If these crucial categories are filled correctly, our quality of life will only improve. 

God is the Creator of life itself which makes Him the leading authority on the subject. Consider how He can help you in each of the five areas listed above.

Faith 

By denying self, our focus is diverted away from our negative self- absorption. Putting God and others first can give you a better, fresh, and positive perspective. 

Acts 20:35

Mental maturity 

When we seek to understand our own minds and what makes us tick, we’ll be able to identify where these negative thoughts and reactions originate. 

Philippians 4:8

Physical health 

Poor health habits like fast-food diets, lack of physical exercise, and sleep deprivation only make dealing with stress all the more difficult. God designed your body to function properly when properly taken care of. 

Luke 1:37 

Relationships 

Every kind of relationship, whether marriages, friendships, family, co-workers, or the church, has one thing in common—they were made by God. Thankfully, God wrote a book to help us understand who we are to be to each individual that make up those groups. 

Romans 12:16

Work 

God built us to work— He expects us to. Some choose to be lazy and suffer. Others choose to constantly work to the neglect of the four other areas mentioned. There must be a balance, and God knows that. 

Psalm 128:2 

While there’s a lot more to be said concerning these five categories, I hope this simplified things and helped you refocus on what really matters. 

Hopefully, looking at life through His divine lens has reminded you of Who you should turn to for everything. He has given you the ultimate assurance— and He is willing to give you the ultimate assistance. 

Laying Aside “Every Weight”

Laying Aside “Every Weight”

Neal Pollard

I try to write very seldom about my favorite hobby, running, which I picked up when our baby, who Pooh Duke has dubbed “Carlnormous,” was still in the womb (This is Carlnormous).  Running produces so many wonderful benefits, physically, psychologically, and mentally.  Yet, as I have heard said, exercise is only about 20% of weight management.  Therefore, until I have recently begun beefing up my “push back” exercises from the dinner table, I have been running at over 200 pounds for much of those 17 years.  I am 15 pounds lighter than I was this time last month, and Strava does not lie.  Today, I logged a 10K at a pace of 8:19/mile (Strava is cool), while listening to a mellow “Fleet Foxes And More” playlist from Amazon Music (Will Fleet Foxes reunite?)—not exactly heart-pumping exercise music.  This time last month, I was about a full minute slower per mile.  Since today I’m inevitably older than I’ve ever been, the difference has to be the fewer pounds I’m dragging around.  Hopefully, I’ll drop more weight, and if I do I anticipate that my pace may quicken and I’ll feel even better doing it.

New Testament writers use the running analogy on several occasions, but consider what the writer of Hebrews says:  “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:1-3). The NASB says “encumbrance” (NKJV, “weight”), and the word means “that which serves to hinder or prevent someone from doing something—‘hindrance, impediment’ (Louw-Nida, 13.149). While the implication is “of an athlete stripping himself of clothing which would impede his performance” (Ellingworth, NIGTC, np), how much more does something like 15 pounds “impede”?

This passage encourages endurance with at least three ideas.

Laying Aside The Weight Is Meaningful. It helps one with endurance as it helps eliminate obstacles to a successful run.  It shows up in a better quality of life. It impacts more than just the run you are on that day.  The effects are enduring and they impact such vital areas as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, etc.  So it is spiritually.  This is about defeating sin, staying faithful, endurance, and overcoming.  In line with the thrust of the whole letter of Hebrews, it is about not falling away and leaving Christ!  We do not want to hang on to anything that interferes with that eternal prospect.

Laying Aside The Weight Is Measurable. I can tell the difference in myself when I have or have not lost that extra weight.  Certainly, the same is true spiritually.  When something is weighing me down, distracting, depressing, deceiving, or drawing me away, I can tell.  I can see it in my devotional life, it shows up in my speech, my attitude, my ethics, and countless similar ways. Other people can see it, too.  I know that God sees every bit of it!

Laying Aside The Weight Is Motivational.  By laying aside the encumbrances and entanglements, I feel better and improve my physical quality of life. The Hebrews’ writer tells us about a transcendent motivation which follows lightening our spiritual loads of sin problems.  Removing the impediments, I am better able to fix my eyes on Jesus and His example while not growing weary or losing heart.

Past experience tells me that weight can be picked up even easier than it can be laid aside.  This is an ongoing discipline.  But it is so worthwhile!  Oh, that I can remember that as I run the course of earth toward eternity.

HOLY HILL DWELLERS

HOLY HILL DWELLERS

Neal Pollard

In Psalm 15, David shows us who is fit to be pleasing to God. I had a general physical and check up on my 30th and 40th birthdays.  I’ll have to say I was more pleased w/the results of the first one. Surprisingly, I found out that I should exercise more, eat less and weigh less.  While I didn’t like what I heard, I heard what I needed to hear. Though I’ve taken the exercise advise more seriously than the eating advice, I know that my physical health depends on my compliance.

Psalm 15 is a fitness test regarding our spiritual health. What does it take to please God in my morality and ethics?I find it interesting that what the Lord puts in His battery of tests is surprisingly difficult, and many good people, even basically good Christians, fail miserably at some of them. But if I don’t want to be shaken (5), I need to submit to this check up.

To dwell on the Lord’s holy hill, I need…

  • Properly working arms and legs (2-3).  The Lord sets forth an agility test for us.
  • We must walk with integrity (this refers to our character, a matter the entire book of Psalms begins with (1:1). We live so that the person we see in the mirror is one we can legitimately admire as wholesome, honest, and honorable).
  • We must work righteousness (this refers to our conduct, how we treat others and deal with them. Are we one people love or dread to see, and are we seen as a cutthroat, back-stabber, and ankle biter or as one who portrays the godly life of Matthew 5:16?).
  • A strong heart (2). No conditioning test is any good that doesn’t check the heart.  God requires truth in our innermost part (Ps. 51:6). A strong heart is a sincere one, one that makes us genuine and transparent. You won’t hear one thing in public but something contradictory in private, but you’ll get consistent truthfulness. One who tells you one thing but lacks sincerity and truth is not one who is going to pass the heart test.
  • A healthy mouth (3-4). Isn’t it amazing how much time God spends examining our mouths.  Even the heart test is connected to the mouth (2). An untamed tongue is an audacious, destructive, reckless, condemned thing (just read James 3:5-10).  Every one of us, to one degree or another, would be mortified if we could hear a recording of the things we’ve said—in anger, gossip, malice, slander, and dishonesty.  Particularly, the Psalmist says “slander” will keep one from the temple. This is an epidemic problem, made worse by the presumption we have that our speech is covered somehow by an exemption. Slander is sinful—it discourages good works because people get gun-shy of criticism, it kills morale as a backbiting atmosphere is unpleasant, and it hinders relationships because it destroys trust.  A tongue can lead a beautiful prayer, teach an amazing Bible class, preach a beautiful sermon and sing like the angels—only to be heard whispering backbiting words, running someone down, or criticizing someone.
  • Excellent eyesight (4). No routine exam is complete without looking at the eyes.  The righteous sees the wayward as God sees them. He doesn’t excuse or defend them as they willfully engage in sin. He sees the evil as God sees them.  That doesn’t mean the righteous won’t try to spiritually win them, but he doesn’t condone them as they live without contrition.

The Psalmist calls for an overall clean bill of health. The spiritually healthy keeps his word, doesn’t take advantage of the needy, and doesn’t betray the innocent. This is an exam we must pass.  How is your spiritual health in light of this heavenly health check?

“Please Let My Mom Stop Smoking”

“Please Let My Mom Stop Smoking”


Neal Pollard

It was written on the back of a recent attendance card by one who seems to be pretty young–less than ten years old.  I did not recognize the child’s name, so I would guess it to be a visitor.  Yet, the plaintive cry pulls at my heartstrings.

Ironically, another visitor (a grown man) several weeks ago took great issue with the idea that smoking is sinful.  Apparently, I had talked about how harmful the use of tobacco is to the body and he did not appreciate it.  We discussed the matter, and using some other substances which the Bible does not specifically condemn as comparisons–methamphetamines, heroine, and cocaine–agreed that lacking a specific “thou shalt not” statement does not make the use of a substance okay. With the body of evidence regarding the carcinogenic properties of tobacco and the known associated health problems connected to its use, one would stand on thin ice and shaky ground to defend the use of tobacco.

But, where does the Bible say that smoking cigarettes is a sin?  How does one come to that conclusion?  What principles are there to consider?

  • What about stewardship?  1 in 13 people in the U.S. will develop lung cancer in their lifetime, but a 2006 European study revealed that 0.2% of men and 0.4% of women who never smoked will develop it. That same, latter study shows that 24.4% of men and 18.5% of women who smoke 5 or more cigarettes per day will develop it (for more info, see http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org and http://aje.oxfordjournals.org). That is an extremely elevated risk.  Additionally, few, if any, have argued that cigarettes or smokeless tobacco are essential (like, say, food) to the body.  Thus, to spend money–often money one does not have–on a substance that actually elevates the risk of harm to oneself is reckless, poor stewardship.
  • What about selfishness?  Given studies like the one above, and there are multiplied many more, a tobacco user does so selfishly.  To knowingly engage in something that could shorten or impair one’s life is to puts self above others.  It also often places others in harm’s way who have to endure “second-hand smoke.” Jesus’ “Golden Rule” seems apt consideration in this regard (Lk. 6:31; cf. Ph. 2:3-4).
  • What about sway? What Paul says about meat could equally apply to smoking (cf. 1 Co. 8:13). Why make my brother stumble? Especially when such stumbling brings ramifications to us, too (Mat. 18:7). Our lives should exemplify Christ, leading people to a better way of living on this earth.

Who knows exactly why this young child wanted us praying for mom to quit smoking? But this little one’s concern was palpable.  May we share concern over any habit, substance, or practice so potentially damaging to ourselves and those close to us.

BEFORE YOU BUY THAT BODY ART

BEFORE YOU BUY THAT BODY ART

Neal Pollard

While there are many matters that are much higher priorities than tattoos, I thought you might like to hear from Dr. Bernadine Healy, the first woman to direct the National Institute of Health, former president of the American Heart Association, and the person who led the American Red Cross response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.  She contributed an article in 2008 to U.S. News and World Report magazine (August 4/August 11, 2008, p. 69) entitled, “The Dangerous Art of the Tattoo.”  Let me say that I am eager to study, convert, and then value and consider as a brother or sister anyone who has tattoos-no matter how many or how big the “body art” is.  They are entitled to the same love and respect as any other member of God’s family.

My target audience are those who may be considering getting one or another one.  Dr. Healy brings up some important issues in the article.  First is the matter of tattoo “remorse.”  Healy reports that “upwards to 50 percent of those who get tattoos later wish they hadn’t.”  Interviews conducted by researchers at Texas Tech with those suffering such remorse cited “moving on from the past, problems wearing clothes, embarrassment, and concerns that tattoos could adversely affect job or career.”

Healy’s second concern should cause one to really take notice.  There are myriad health concerns associated with both getting tattoos and having them removed.  There is a toxic release of low-level carcinogens associated with removal, which in itself is said to a long and very painful process.  There are allergic reactions and skin infections that can follow tattooing.  Healy writes, “The FDA warns about the risk of tattoo parlors transmitting viruses like HIV and the cancer-causing hepatitis C.”  MRI scans can cause tattoos to swell or burn.  She says much more, and I would recommend your getting the article if you are interested in reading it.

Here is the relevant point.  Anything, whether drugs, tobacco, alcohol, fornication, “overuse” of food, or ink, that hurts our bodies needs to be avoided.  May we never forget what Paul told Corinth.  “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19).  We are stewards of all God’s resources, which includes our bodies. Let us make wise and God-honoring decisions concerning them, too! Too, it is so important to try and see the far-reaching consequences of decisions we make today.  We cannot know how we will feel, so we should exercise increased caution before doing something permanent to ourselves.