I Want To Be Happy

I Want To Be Happy

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

I was 16 years old and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a new phone. I was 17 years old and I told myself, I’ll be happy when I get my own vehicle. I was 18 and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a newer phone. I was 19 and I thought, I’ll be happy when I get a newer truck.

At 16 I got a new phone and I was happy, until I dropped it in a hotel toilet a month later. I was 17 and I got my own truck and I was happy, until the transmission went out on the way to school. I was 18 and I got a newer phone, and I was happy until I left it on the roof of my dads car as we drove home from church. I was 19 and I got a truck that was nicer than anything I could ever want. I was happy, until it broke down on an Indian reservation in Arizona.

I thought I knew what would make me happy. I chased after the physical possessions that I thought would bring me joy. The problem that I failed to see was that phones break and trucks aren’t always reliable. My happiness would run out when my stuff would break.

People are constantly searching for happiness. Why? Because they don’t know what will make them truly happy. It’s a daily experiment that never gives them the result they are looking for. There are millions of books, movies, articles, and lessons geared toward helping us find true happiness.

“How to be happy” is one of the most searched phrases on Google, second only to “how to lose weight.” We ask this question because we can’t find the answer. Solomon asked this question in Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity says the preacher.” The wisest man in the world wanted happiness and looked at every possible solution. He looked to money, drinking, and women. Every time Solomon placed his happiness in these things, he was left feeling empty. He finally found the secret to life: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13).

Every earthly option was tried, and none of them seemed to work. The bottom line is to fear God and keep His commandments. Why? Because God knows His creation. Do you struggle with finding happiness? Do you want nothing more than to be content? The answer isn’t found in the world. You won’t find true, lasting happiness in anything on this earth.

Happiness is found in our purpose as God’s chosen (1 Peter 2:9), in loving God (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37-39), and in showing gratitude (Psa. 118:1; 136:1; 147:7).

Guard Duty

Guard Duty

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

What does it mean to “guard our hearts?” The word “guard” means to watch over in order to protect and control. So we’re supposed to protect our hearts…but not the physical heart. This isn’t an article on cholesterol, so what do we mean by heart?

Scripture uses the word “heart” when referring to our inner self. The center of emotion. What we believe in, the things that motivate our actions all come from the heart. We must protect/guard our hearts (center of emotion).

What do we guard it from? Proverbs 4 tells us. But there’s something important that we should understand. You can guard your heart from good as well as evil. People can and will protect their heart from letting God’s word change them. As Christians we can even build a wall that will keep us from making the proper changes in our lives.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Guard your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” If we wish to have character we must guard our hearts. But this verse is kind of vague if we read it by itself. The context of Proverbs 4:23 is the key to understanding, So, how do we guard our hearts?

Fill your heart with God’s Word (20-22). Once it is filled, guard your heart that is now full of truth (23). Guard it by paying attention to the way you are living your life (24-27), making sure that you stay in line with the truth that is in your heart.

The writer then goes into detail on what actions we must be guarding:

Our Speech (24). “Put away from you crooked speech, and put devious talk far from you. “ The things that we say are a direct reflection of what’s in our heart. If we lash out in anger, that anger comes from the heart. If we have a habit of speaking evil, the source is the heart.

Our Eyes (25).  “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you.” The only way to properly guard the truth in our hearts is by constantly looking to God. Recognize the end goal, with “eyes on the prize” (Matt. 14).

Our Mind (26), “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.” Think about the direction that you are heading. Is it closer to God, or further away? Our minds must have the knowledge to know what is right, and then the willpower and self control to stay true to the path of salvation.

Our Direction (27), “Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.” As we ponder the path of our feet, we must then turn our feet away from evil so as to keep our direction headed towards an eternity with God.

Heart failure has a variety of different symptoms, including shortness of breath, swelling, coughing, confusion and memory loss, rapid weight gain, and fatigue. Heart failure increases the risk of death and hospitalization, and many times these symptoms go unnoticed. Spiritual heart failure symptoms can also go unnoticed. But these include lack of proper desire, sinful speech, no self control, weak character and a lack of prayer and study.

If we fail to guard our hearts as Christians, we will never be able to experience an eternity with God the Father.

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Mind Your Thinking

Mind Your Thinking

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Growing up there were certain tasks that my parents would give me that I didn’t want to do. Washing the floorboards, weeding the garden, cutting vinyl siding, and digging holes with a post hole digger. These are just a few examples of what many of us would consider hard work.

I remember the hours working on these jobs, covered in sweat with blistered hands, and an all-around feeling of fatigue. There were a couple times in particular where I can remember my dad saying the classic phrase, “Son this is character building work.” And then he would tell a story about some hard job he had to do as a kid. Looking back, these jobs really did build character, but there’s more to it than just digging a hole and sweating.

You can be a hard worker, and still lack honesty, sincerity, and humility. Character building takes serious work and commitment. Luckily, God has given us His perfect word that tells us how we can grow our character.

If you’ve ever struggled with living out your faith, or with your commitment to Christ, working on growing our character will help you focus on what’s truly important in this life.

There are many different ways that we could go about building our character, and as we look to scripture a good place to start in this endeavor is by practicing righteous thinking. If we want to grow our character, we have to start changing the way that we think. Problem is, it’s a lot easier said than done. There are two different passages that tell us how we can practice righteous thinking.

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” As Christians we can learn to dwell on righteousness by filling our mind with godly traits. If we are truly set on transforming our minds to think on righteousness, we have to replace worldly thinking with godly traits.

Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” It’s possible to practice righteous thinking by renewing our mind with the will of God. We’re no longer looking to ourselves as master, but to God. By doing this our thinking changes. Our focus shifts from this world, and our minds will dwell on righteousness.

Do you want to be known as a person of character? The first change we must undergo is to start thinking righteously. Righteous thinking is no easy task. It takes work, and many times we fall short of this goal. Thankfully we serve a loving God that wants nothing more than for us to spend an eternity with Him in Heaven.

Question is, do we want this future enough to make the right decisions?

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Meditation: What is it? Why do it? How do I do it?

Meditation: What is it? Why do it? How do I do it?

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The concept of Biblical mediation is viewed as a mystery to many of us. The simple answer to “How do I do it?” can seem frustratingly vague. Common answers are—

“you read a passage that stands out over and over and then you think about it.”

Or maybe…

“you find a verse and then pray about it.”

Here’s what you should know about true Biblical meditation.

Three Facts About Biblical Mediation

1. It does not involve emptying your mind, but rather filling your mind with God’s mind.
2. It’s not a complex ritual in which you must reach a higher “spiritual place” to accomplish. It’s a simple act that God intended for everyone to be able to do— in order to bring you to a better spiritual place.
3. It is an intentional act. You won’t find yourself meditating accidentally. We must make time for God.
Here’s why we should all be doing this.
Four Reasons To Meditate
1. For Improved Worship
2. For Perfect Instruction
3. For Needed Encouragement
4. For Spiritual Transformation
Here’s what you will need to accomplish it.
Three Tools For Great Meditation
OBSERVATION – What does the text say?
INTERPRETATION – What does it mean in context?
APPLICATION – What does it mean for me?

Note: Combine With Prayer before and after for best results.

Here’s what you will get out of it.
Ten Benefits Of Biblical Meditation
1. Proven to lower blood pressure
2. Decrease anxiety
3. Improve heart rate
4. It enables your to relax
5. It brings peace
6. It draws you closer to God
7. It gives us confidence
8. It offers an escape from temptation
9. It provides helpful correction
10. It makes us better Bible students (Psalm 119:11)

Finally, here’s an exercise to help us see the many categories on which we can mediate. Simply answer the questions in your mind, and try to develop a habit of asking yourself personal questions about what you’re reading.

A Meditation Exercise From The Psalms
You could meditate…

On His rules (Ps. 119; look up in the ESV)
• What rules do you tend to break?
• Why do you break them?
• What’s the point behind His “rules”?

On His Promises (Ps. 119:148)
• Which of His promises bring you the most comfort?
• Has God kept His promises to you? How?

On His mighty deeds (Ps. 77:12)
• Which specific mighty deeds has God performed in the history?
• What mighty deeds do you believe God has performed in your life?
• What could God do with you today if you allowed Him to?

On His unfailing love (Ps. 48:9)
• There has never been a moment in your life when God hadn’t loved you.
• What does that tell you? What does it expose about yourself?

I hope this helps clarify what real mediation is— and how it can change your life!

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AREN’T WE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION?

AREN’T WE ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION?

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

  • I’ve never heard the avid fisherman say, “Do I have to go back to the lake?”
  • I’ve never heard the shopaholic say, “How often do I have to go to the store?”
  • I’ve never heard the committed sports fan say, “How many games do I have to watch?”
  • I’ve never heard the foodie say, “How often do I have to try a new restaurant or dish?”
  • I’ve never heard the head-over-heels-in-love say, “How many times do I have to see him/her each week?”
  • I’ve never heard the devoted mom say, “How often must I hold my baby?”

We’ve lost the battle when our sermons, articles, and classes center around answering the question, “How often must I assemble? How many times a week do I have to come to church? Are Sunday night and Wednesday night mandatory?”

How unnatural for a disciple, a committed follower of Jesus who is in love with Him and who has such a relationship with Him that He is priority number one, to approach the assemblies in such a way! Must? Have to? You see, the question is wrong. The mentality and approach is where the work needs to occur.

When Jesus and His church are my passion, the thought-process becomes “I get to,” “I want to,” and “I will!” Neither parents, grandparents, spouses, elders, preachers, siblings, nor anyone else have to get behind anyone and push the one who has put Jesus at the heart and center of their lives.

Not a legalistic or checklist mindset. Instead, an outgrowth of what’s happening in my life between my God and me. Church “attendance” is but one evidence of this, but it certainly is an evidence of this. Church and religion are not just a slice of the pie of a committed Christian’s life. Christ is the hub in the wheel of their life, and each spoke of the wheel is attached to that hub. The difference could not be more dramatic!

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DAFFODILS THAT DON’T BLOOM

DAFFODILS THAT DON’T BLOOM

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Like the robin, daffodils are a harbinger of spring. They begin blooming in late winter and create anticipation for the pretty spring flowers following. We planted our place in Appalachia with daffodils nearly 30 years ago. Today, we get few flowers in places where we planted them. We do have healthy-looking, green blades but no blooms. By their nature, a single daffodil bulb becomes an entire colony of bulbs within a few years because it reproduces by dividing at the bulb. Once so many bulbs are packed into a small space, the plant cannot receive enough moisture or nutrients to produce the desired flower. So, on the one hand, it’s great because just a few daffodil bulbs can yield an entire daffodil garden in a few years. On the other hand, to keep daffodils flowering one must periodically dig up these new bulbs and space them out so conditions remain conducive to their overall health.

When we think about Jesus’ parable of the sower, we likely think of the various soils presented therein. We pray we find the good soil as we go to plant the seed but realize since few are finding the strait gate and narrow way (Matthew 7.13-14), most of our seed falls on the other three poor soils. Of those poor soils, Jesus highlighted a group in whom the seed never produces fruit since they become choked by thorns (Luke 8.14). These thorny-soiled hearts didn’t recognize how detrimental their thorns were since they took the form of the cares and riches of the world. In like manner, we don’t see the problems posed by a bunch of healthy-looking, green blades where our daffodils ought to be. We keep hoping they will put on blooms, bringing us the testimony of God’s wondrous creation. Yet, conditions underground won’t allow for that.

Might I suggest those possessing thorny-soiled hearts can have a similar problem as the daffodil? It may be they don’t just wither and die (i.e. fall away). It may be they are sitting on the pew, where we planted them, looking as if they hold promise, but never producing blooms. Why? It may be their fruit is being crowded out by conditions at their root. We see no prickly thorns gathered around them. Yet, there are cares and concerns on the inside choking out God’s Word all the same. It is confounding since they may even greet us with a smile on their faces while being inwardly consumed by such things as anxiety.  If we do nothing, though, the results will be the same as if it were thorns.

It may be we need to lift these unproductive Christians to help them settle in a better environment conducive to their growth. We need to help them remove all the things choking their heart. We need to nurture them. Though we’re more considerate of the newborn in Christ, the overcrowding of the heart is a challenge potentially taking place even in the one who obeyed the Gospel years ago. Be your brother and sister’s keeper (Galatians 6.1; James 5.19-20). If you see a pretty green blade that never flowers, dig a little deeper. If one’s heart is being crowded out, help him find the space to bloom (Hebrews 3.13).

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A PROVEN RECIPE FOR PEACE

A PROVEN RECIPE FOR PEACE

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary Pollard

Peace conjures a number of different images in our minds; from hippies to nature’s beauty to inner calm to lack of anxiety. Nearly every group of people in the world craves peace – no rational human being wants to live in constant upheaval. We all want to have peace, but our world somehow is still getting worse and worse. Why is this? The prince of this world is not a being who desires peace (II Corinthians 4.4; Ephesians 2.2; John 12.31). His very existence is dedicated to bringing down anyone who believes in God (I Peter 5:8) and he has no care or concern for the fate or well-being of anyone on this earth. Total, lasting world peace will never be possible as long as time continues (see Romans 8.18-25: sin caused the earth to be subjected to futility). 

Total, lasting world peace may not be possible in this life, but this does not mean the world cannot experience any peace at all. How can we experience peace in our lives? 

Firstly, it has to come from us. The world will never act in a way that brings peace. Anytime the world wishes to better its conditions, it incites civil unrest, riots, protests, and other not-very-peaceful behaviors. Christians, however, are called to be different. I Timothy 2.1ff tells us that praying to God on behalf of all men, for kings, and all who are in authority will allow us to lead quiet and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity. We can have peace by being obedient to government authorities – even if we do not agree with them politically – because God put them in place (Romans 13). If we want peace, we have to show that peace by how we live. Since man is naturally attracted to peace, our quiet, godly lives will draw others to Christ. 

Secondly, even if our world is in chaos we can have inner peace. Philippians was written to break up a nasty fight between Euodia and Syntyche. To have the “peace beyond what we can understand,” they had to rejoice in the Lord, be reasonable, not be anxious, and reach out to God for their every need. The same applies to us today! Do we get our joy from God or from worldly pursuits? Are we worried about meeting personal needs or do we rely on God (see Phil. 4.19; Matt. 6.25)? Do we try to fix our own problems, relying on our own strength, or do we place them in God’s hands and work with His guidance and providence? The Christian life is not easy, nor is it always peaceful, but the inner peace that a faithful Christian experiences, knowing that their name is in the book of life and that nothing in this short life can disrupt God’s love for them, makes every struggle in this life worth the pain. 

If we want peace, we have to be that peace. We have to live peaceful lives. We have to submit to governing authorities (as long as it is within the parameters of godliness). We have to be unified as a church. We have to look to God for all of our needs. We have to trust that He will take care of us, even if that isn’t in this life. If we can do these things, we will have peace.

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The Mouse And The Cups 

The Mouse And The Cups 

Thursday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

In the pantry there’s a package of white foam cups. A small gray mouse struggles to carry a cup out into a man’s front yard one at a time. Just one cup and one each day. The man sticks to a normal routine. He goes to work early, and he comes home late. He watches TV, cooks a meal, tinkers on projects in the garage, and goes to bed. It’s mindless, it’s robotic, but day in and day out the cycle repeats itself. He leaves for work and the mouse drags yet another cup out onto his lawn. It isn’t until his yard is filled with foam cups that the man takes notice. What a mess! He walks through the yard and picks a few of them up. As he examines them he says, “What a waste. Perfectly good cups, now useless and dirty. We have a limited amount of foam cups in our package, and there’s a day when the mouse will grab the last one. We better put them to use. ”

If God came to you and gave you the chance to make a single request, what would you ask for? Our prayer lives are usually filled with our personal wants and needs. There are countless things that tug at different areas of our heart as we approach our Father, the Creator of the universe. He can do anything, He has all the power, and in one way or another we all desire some Divine intervention. I would like my family to be healthy and happy. I would like to live out the rest of my days with no more worries or anxieties. I would like the peace that comes with total financial stability. I wish my dog would live to be one hundred and five. I would like to be successful in everything I put my mind to.

There are five hundred wants in my heart, but what do I desire more than anything? The answer to that question is deeply connected to our spiritual life. What my heart chases after, where my time and energy goes, and even what I ask God for spreads my top priorities before me. David writes in Psalm 27:4, “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek. That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon his beauty and inquire in His temple.” David is known as the man after God’s own heart, simply because his heart was after God. David’s one desire was to form a deep and meaningful relationship with God. He understood what truly matters in this life. He even makes that his specific and singular request of the Lord. He puts his faith in action as he seeks that relationship with God. His life was built around this, and everything else is secondary to him. His seeking was that hopeful expectation— the effort he put in to this pursuit was a demonstration of that belief in God’s ability to grant him his one thing. David spent his time wisely. Almost every day that was granted to him he used as an opportunity to seek His Lord.

God is the Alpha the Omega, the beginning and the end. His eyes can see the very point in time in which He decided to create everything. He can also step back and look at His timeline and see the exact moment in which He will bring all things to an end. The Bible is a gift and glimpse into His mind. In it we can see the powerful beginning to the world we live in. We can see how God works in our present, and we can read about a grand event that will come when the days run out.

What is that one thing you want more than anything else? Don’t let the cups pile up in your yard. Let’s all use the time we have to pursue the only thing that matters.

 

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MODESTY AND THE MEDIA SEXUALIZATION OF OUR GIRLS

MODESTY AND THE MEDIA SEXUALIZATION OF OUR GIRLS

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

In 2008, M. Gigi Durham wrote a blunt book entitled: The Lolita Effect: the Media Sexualization Of Young Girls And What We Can Do About It. Durham is not at all writing from a Christian worldview, being a militant, secular feminist instead. In the book, she writes about several myths created by the media and the culture.

  • The “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” myth: Fashion magazines and media urge girls to dress in a way that’s “hot” and as such sets up the danger girls will attract harmful sexual attention.
  • The “anatomy of a sex goddess” myth: The runway model or the Barbie doll is projected as the ideal body, but both are unnatural.  They are genetic anomalies.
  • The “pretty babies” myth: “Ideal sexiness is about being young—very young it seems.”
  • The “what boys like” myth: “The ideal spectator is said to be male and the image of the woman is designed to flatter him.”

Durham is definitely on to something, even if it serves her own and different agenda. She is not alone in the secular world, worrying about the unhealthy consequences of the sexualization of our girls, even at the youngest of ages (Read more here).

Christian families, who believe and follow the Bible, already had these warnings in place. Consistently, God calls women (and girls) who profess godliness to reflect that by how they project themselves (cf. 1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:3-4).  Many preachers and Bible class teachers through the years have taken great pains to try and define and describe modesty, but what we have observed above would have been indisputably immodest in most people’s eyes in the world just a generation or so ago.

Too many parents, including Christian parents, have been swayed by the world’s fashion standards.  Even girls being raised in a Christian home have at times been encouraged and allowed to dress in ways that can easily produce lust. Jesus says that those who lust after a woman are committing adultery with her in their hearts (Mat. 5:28).  Men, young and old, have a responsibility to combat lust in their hearts, but Christian love would seem to dictate that women, young and old, would make that as easy as possible for them.

Fashions that are marketed as hot, sexy and daring, that reveal the body in a sexual way, are immodest!  The world, even without the Word, sees and understands that. We dare not rationalize it!  The world sexualizes everything from Cheetos to plant food and everything in between.  God commands purity of His people, but His Word must inform our standard of purity rather than what we think is pure.  Proverbs 30:11-13 says, “There is a kind of man who curses his father and does not bless his mother.  There is a kind who is pure in his own eyes, yet is not washed from his filthiness. There is a kind—oh how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.”

It’s important for us to ask, “What kind am I?”  Fashion choices and body obsession that say “if you’ve got it flaunt it” must be honestly examined and carefully avoided. God bless our homes which thoughtfully consider and decide with hearts set to honor Him.

THE HEART OF JONAH

THE HEART OF JONAH

TUESDAY COLUMN: “DALE MAIL”

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Dale Pollard

The book of Jonah is a unique book in the Old Testament. Unlike other prophetic books, God chooses to focus on the prophet himself rather than the message being preached by him. While many lessons can be pulled from this four chapter book, there’s one in particular that we can all benefit from hearing from time to time. That lesson is that in order for true change to occur in our lives there must be a genuine transformation of the heart.

The book begins with God’s call to Jonah to preach to the wicked people of Nineveh and then closes with God’s response to Jonah’s anger at the penitent hearts of the Ninevites. Between these two divine speeches you read about the prophet’s incredible experience in the belly of a great fish. Many artist’s have painted pictures of Jonah desperately trying to keep his head above the waves while a terrifying monster breeches the surface with its mouth wide open preparing to swallow him. While this may be the image that comes to mind, Jonah gives us an interesting detail in his prayer. He recalls how the waters closed over him and he eventually reaches the sea floor where he is helplessly tangled in the weeds. While the murky waters cloud his vision his fate seemed very clear. Jonah admits that he called out to the Lord provoked by his great distress and this mental plea was a desperate attempt to preserve his life. God answers this cry by sending him a slippery savior. Jonah, while known to be a little on the dramatic side, will later recall how it was in the moment when his life was fainting away that he “remembered the Lord.” God saved a blatantly rebellious man who in no way deserved that salvation but He also allowed Jonah to reach great depths and come face to face with his own spiritual reality. Jonah was a long way from God, but not geographically.

Before Jonah became soaked by the stormy seas, he was soaked in a sin problem that had taken root in his heart. God allowed Jonah to physically experience rock bottom so that he could acknowledge some spiritual issues that distanced him from God. While Jonah may have desired to run from God, he came to the conclusion that being away from God was not the relief he thought it would be.

As traumatic as this event was, Jonah seems to emerge from the belly of the fish with lingering spiritual issues. Though he preaches to the city of Nineveh, there is still anger and hatred dominating his heart. The last chapter gives us a glimpse of this as he directs this anger towards the very God that saved him. In order for true change to occur, there must be a genuine change of heart. While low points can help us examine our heart health for a moment, relentless determination to live life differently is the key to success. A hopeful reminder for anyone who may find themselves in the depths of sin, there is no place too dark where God is not able to hear your prayers.