PLEASE LOOK BEHIND THE CANVAS!

PLEASE LOOK BEHIND THE CANVAS!

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Safari 2017

Neal Pollard

I sat next to a man at dinner the other night, a retired Marine officer named Anthony who was now a successful businessman. Though he was in his sixties and had six grandchildren, he could have passed, even with a smattering of gray hair, for an elite athlete. He was incredibly intelligent, articulate, a war hero, wealthy, and, by anyone’s estimation, a true Renaissance man. He was also a brand new Christian.

Despite his apparent success, he confessed to having experienced decades of emptiness inside. He described it as I have often heard people describe it, that there was a hole inside and nothing he tried would fill it. He pictured it as painting a facade. He held out the canvas for others to see what he projected, but the man behind the painting was hollow, depressed, and ever searching. 

That changed when his neighbor, a man named David Grimes, took an interest in his life. They began walking together in their neighborhood, discussing life. David would always refer Anthony to the Bible and what God’s Word had to say. At some time later, when Anthony faced a crisis, he found himself reaching out to David for help. Ultimately, through David’s friendship and his efforts to teach him, Anthony obeyed the gospel!

Anthony said, “There are a lot of people like me out there! They seem secure, confident, in control, and without need. But they are searching to fill a void in their lives. I know. I was one of them.” We can convince ourselves in these troubling, ungodly times that nobody is interested in God and His Word. Anthony would encourage you to get involved in the lives of your coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and the people you connect with through your children’s activities. No matter what they are projecting, invest in them. At some point, they will let you in. They will allow you to look behind the canvas and the pretty picture they have painted, and you will see a soul searching for something only God can satisfy! God is counting on us to see past the pretense and help that person He loved enough to give His Son for. The picture of success in the world’s eyes was secretly aching for something deeper and better. He found it in the only place it can be found–in Christ! 

Please look behind the canvas!

8 Reminders For The Restless Mind

8 Reminders For The Restless Mind

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

dalejanelle2021

Dale Pollard

  1. Don’t carry burdens that aren’t yours (Proverbs 3.5-6)
  2. Remember the extraordinary times that God has carved out a path where there was no path before (Isaiah 43.16-19) 
  3. Don’t forget, God can see what you can’t see (Proverbs 16.9) 
  4. Even if you stumble, God won’t let you stay down (Psalm 37.23-24) 
  5. God’s vision is bigger and better than yours (Jeremiah 33.3) 
  6. God hasn’t forgotten about you (Proverbs 20.24) 
  7. Remember to be very specific when praying to God (2 Samuel 5.19) 
  8. Always be sure your will is His will (James 4.15) 

If you’re struggling with the anxieties that can come from making life’s difficult decisions, read these verses. Perhaps they will give you some insight that help you to answer that crucial question, 

“How should I be praying about this?” 

Give it to God and rest up! 

“When you lie down you will not be afraid, when you lie down your sleep will be sweet.” 

Proverbs 3.24 

What Was Their Secret?

What Was Their Secret?

Gary Pollard

What got early Christians through hard times? What helped them grow? How were they able to thrive when their jobs, families, and personal safety were threatened?

They focused on hope. Biblical hope is confident expectation. God promised us a perfect life after this sometimes stinky one. The early church’s hope for death’s freedom gave courage and comfort (I Peter 1.3). Their hope for a perfect life had the same effect (II Peter 3.13; Romans 8.18ff).

They focused on grace. It keeps us from falling out with God, and it helps keep our motivation high (Romans 7.15ff; I John 1.7)!

They focused on God’s message to humans (I Peter 2.2). We have to view reality through God’s eyes. This isn’t possible without deep, meaningful, and unbiased study! The Bible is a collection of rich, fascinating insights into God’s nature and our future! It’s very helpful to use a version that’s easy to read and modern.

They focused on each other. The early church spent a ton of time together (special circumstance, but still cool: Acts 2.44). Their relationship provided encouragement and strength! Managing conflict healthily is also crucial for the church’s health (Matthew 18).

They focused on selflessness. We aren’t animals, so we should put the needs of others above our own (Romans 14; I Corinthians 8; All of Philippians). A selfless family can get through anything!

There’s No Place Like Home!

There’s No Place Like Home!

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

There is so much debate out there as to what Heaven will actually be like. Some make the argument that we just can’t know for sure. We know that there will be no tears in Heaven, so since that is the case there will definitely be blackened catfish there. Because in a place where there is no blackened catfish present, I would cry. Now with that out of the way, let’s look at three quick promises about Heaven.
First there is the promise of “fellowship” In Revelation 21:3 it says, “He will dwell among us…” Not just any fellowship, but fellowship with Jesus Christ. The second promise is that of “Relief.” In the very next verse it says, “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” How many of us can’t wait for that day? Now the third promise is one that is pulled from a verse that many people do not like to read. In Revelation 21:8 we see that there is a promise of “seclusion” You see, Heaven is going to be so great because of who will not be there. After we get a glimpse of what is promised to those who love Him (James 1:12), we see what is promised to those that don’t. Yet even here we see a blessing. Heaven is going to be place that is absent of, “…the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars…” Heaven is going to be a place filled with family. The faithful Church family. I’m going to Heaven! It’s a choice. It’s a choice to live right and follow Christ no matter what. You have the ability to say it confidently and you should never have to wonder if you’re going to Heaven. It’s a promise! Take hold of that promise, because it’s the only thing that matters.

Four Ways To Simply Feel Better About Life

Four Ways To Simply Feel Better About Life

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

God wants you to succeed and He can’t wait to see you. 

Alright, take a deep breath and let’s dive into an ocean of hope for a few minutes. 

If you’re a member of the Lord’s church you can probably think of at least one person who is able to keep a smile on his or her face and a tune on their lips, even when everything in their life seems to be going horribly wrong. 

We might be tempted to think, “I must be one horrible Christian because I can tell you now, I’d never be that joyful under such circumstances.” 

It may seem unnatural or even out of reach for everybody to live their lives just like that but we can’t forget their secret. 

The “magic” is all happening on the inside. 

God has transformed the heart and spirit of that person, and the effects of this are seen when you spot that smile on their face and see their head carried high. You’ll also be able to hear the effect–evidence in conversations with these inspiring people because they tend to direct your attention to God by giving Him all the glory and credit for their peaceful state of mind. Do you have the desire to be that kind of person? I’m assuming you do. Who wouldn’t want this supernatural ability? 

Our lives are a roller coaster ride of emotions and situations of all kinds and the worst state to find yourself is the dreaded “slump.” You know you’re in a slump when you can’t seem to find the motivation to be happy or even allow a peaceful or cheerful thought to linger in your brain. 

Let’s take a quick gander at Philippians 2:14-15 and then dive right into those four ways to feel better about life.

“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

This verse may make us think, “easier said than done!” (especially if you’re currently in the slump) but let’s look at it from another perspective. 

When we look a wee closer at this verse we see at least four juicy nuggets of hope.

We could imply that– 

1. Your attitude can change (no grumbling!) 

2. Your speech can change (no grumbling or questioning!) 

3. Your demeanor can physically change (like innocent children) 

4. Your mindset can change (shining lights) 

The key word is in bold in each of these four areas. This CAN happen, but we’ll need to take a visit to the “how department” first. 

Welcome to the “How Department.” 

First, it’s up to us to internalize that this change is really possible.  

Second, allow yourself to enjoy that feeling of hope that comes with the knowledge that God can change your mindset. 

Third, we must accept that this change is also expected of us. 

 Fourth, understand that God knows that we have the ability to climb out of the slump or He wouldn’t have told us to do so. 

Here’s how God can make you feel better. 

By… 

1. Remembering all those times in the past that God has helped you and others out of previous slumps. 

2. Surrounding ourselves with those positive family members in the congregation you attend. 

3. Gaining some of His wisdom by reaching out to trusted mentors or older Christians who have walked the walk of faith longer than you have.

4. Spending time with God-loving friends who are trying their best, just as you are, and the two of you can mutually encourage one another. 

We have the ability to change, but we have to develop that desire to do so. 

Remember. 

God wants you to succeed and He can’t wait to see you.

Circle of Life

Circle of Life

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

gary and chelsea

Gary Pollard

  1. Earth Created (Gen. 1) (A)
  2. Man Sins, Earth Corrupted (Rom. 8) (B)
  3. Access to Tree of Life Blocked (Gen. 3) (C)
  4. Man Unified in Evil (Gen. 6) (D)
  5. Earth Destroyed by Water, Preserved for Destruction by Fire (II Pet. 3.6,7) (E)
  6. Jesus Grants Access to God As Mediator, High Priest, Perfect Sacrifice (Heb. 2.9; Rom. 8.17) (F)
  7. Man Rejects God, Unified in Evil (II Thess. 2.3-12) (4) (D)
  8. Earth Destroyed by Fire (II Pet. 3) (E)
  9. Man Redeemed, Creation Redeemed (Rom. 8.18-20; cf Mt. 19.28) (A, B)
  10. Access to Tree of Life Restored (Rev. 22.2) (C)
  11. God’s Own Live with Him, Share Unique Bond, Can Never Lose Paradise Again (II Pet. 3.13; Rom. 8.29; II Tim. 2.12) (F)

You can also look at it this way: 

  1. Earth Created (Gen. 1) New Heavens, New Earth (II Pet. 3.13; Rev. 21.1; Matt. 19.28)
  2. Man Sins, Earth Corrupted (Rom. 8.18-20) Man Redeemed, Earth Redeemed (Rom. 8.18-25)
  3. Access to Tree of Life Blocked (Gen. 3) Access to Tree of Life Restored (Rev. 22.2)
  4. Man Unified in Evil (Gen. 6)  Man Unified in Evil (II Thess. 2.3-12)
  5. Earth Destroyed by Water (Gen. 7; II Pet. 3.6,7) Earth Destroyed by Fire (II Pet. 3.7)
  6. Jesus Gives Access to Father (Heb. 2.9)  We Live With God (II Tim. 2.12; I Jn. 3.1ff; Rom. 8.29)

“The God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ is blessed. Thanks to His incredible mercy, we are born again into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ out of death. Because of this, we have an immortal inheritance that has no flaw and cannot wear out. This is guarded in heaven for you who are also guarded by God through faith. This salvation will be revealed to you at the end” (I Pet. 1.3ff).

Tips For Improving Your Outlook

Tips For Improving Your Outlook

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

pollard

Neal Pollard

“Outlook” is one’s point of view or general attitude about life. It’s really the way one looks out at the world and sees it. Your outlook may be colored by a lot of things going on in the world right now. It’s easy to let the negative, scary, and discouraging events cloud our view. Are there some proactive measures we can take to improve that picture? Yes!

  • Invest in someone. Perhaps no one should have had a harder time keeping positive than the apostle Paul. Read all that he suffered and endured (2 Cor. 11:23-33). He repeatedly labored under the threat of danger (1 Cor. 15:30) and death (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6). Yet, he exuded positivity (Phil. 4:13,19; 2 Cor. 9:8). Surely one reason was Paul’s knack for investing in others. He mentored Timothy (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2), Titus (Ti. 1:4), and Onesimus (Phile. 10). He spent time nurturing and developing churches like Corinth (1 Cor. 4:14-15) and Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:7-8, 11). He was willing to run the risk of being disappointed by the people he invested in (2 Tim. 4:10). For every Demas, there was a Luke (2 Tim. 4:11). There is someone who needs to benefit from your wisdom, maturity, experience, and understanding. Seek them out and help them, for their sake but also for yours. 
  • Clarify your purpose. It is easy to reduce our view of this life to a daily grind we find ourselves working at. We can get lost in our routine, not unlike Martha whose outlook was distorted by hers (Luke 10:41). Being organized and fulfilling our responsibilities are vital, but what can help restore joy and meaning to all of it is regularly remembering why we engage in it all. Marriage, parenting, friendships, occupation, education, daily Christian living, church membership, and personal growth all serve a deeper purpose. Paul’s advice to slaves with earthly masters has broader application: “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:23-24). 
  • Reduce media consumption. If you constantly monitor news and current events, you will stay discouraged and fearful. The media has always thrived on reporting on the worst events happening, and it seems there is more and more of it to report. The same kind of thing can happen with too much social media consumption. Polarizing, inflammatory posts and reactions can form a black cloud over you pretty quickly. When Paul urges us to ponder things that cause pleasure and delight (Phil. 4:8), I’m pretty sure he wasn’t thinking of anything like what the media is churning out. 
  • Increase personal interaction. Technology has steadily pushed so many toward isolation and disconnection. The pandemic forced this tendency further. Those monitoring the news cycle du jour (see previous point) retreat into virtual bunkers of suspicion against people of different colors, nationalities, and political persuasions. They become impersonal caricatures, grotesquely exaggerated and larger than life. How do you break through resulting prejudices? The Lord’s way was to be in people’s lives. Engage them. Listen to their stories. Grow empathy. Understand their hurts, fears, and needs. Realize their humanity and remind yourself how profoundly and infinitely God loves each and every one of them (John 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4). People can be broken, full of dysfunction, and even prickly, but we will brighten our outlook when we get out of our shells and into their lives. 
  • Focus on encouragement.  Several times, I heard the late gospel preacher, George Bailey, say, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.” I have yet to meet a self-absorbed person who is happy with what they’ve filled themselves with. We’re just not wired that way. Paul’s central focus with the Philippians is on how to think right, their mindset and attitude. He urges placing others above self and looking out for others’ interests (Phil. 2:3-4). It’s amazing how God has wired us. When we find people to uplift and build up, it improves our own outlook. There are countless folks all around you who are struggling with their outlook. Compliment, express appreciation for, and gratefully acknowledge them. It’s a godly thing to do, but a side-effect will be what it does for you!
  • Look up and look ahead. Though not every time, usually my dampened outlook can be attributed to not only looking too much at this world and myself but also by not looking more at the world to come and God. It’s harder to focus on what’s invisible to the naked eye, but it’s crucial. Paul reminds us, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). Spend more time in God’s throne room and His inspired library. Deepen your dependency upon Him. In doing so, focus more intensely on His promise of the world to come (John 14:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff). This life is temporary. Eternity is–well–eternal!  Looking up, you’ll see the all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, and all-loving God (Psa. 139:1-18). Looking ahead, you’ll see victory (1 John 5:4). 

I think we’ll always struggle with dark days and discouragement. Did Paul? Read 2 Corinthians and 2 Timothy. But, he and other Bible writers give us a laundry list of ways to combat these and make them temporary. David was walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but He could still see divine presence, divine comfort, divine provision, divine blessings, and divine promise (Psa. 23:4-6). So can we!  It just may take adjusting the way we look out at the world. 

Hope For The Christian Who Struggles With Sin

Hope For The Christian Who Struggles With Sin

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

We are imperfect people trying to get to Heaven, and we make mistakes. Throughout scripture is a distinction between people who live to sin and people who struggle with sin, but live for God. 

I John 5.16, 17 and Romans 7.5-8.17 are perhaps the most encouraging passages for a Christian who struggles with sin. These passages demonstrate God’s willingness and great desire to keep us pure, even when we struggle with sin. 

Paul teaches us that sin is something we struggle with and should hate (Rom. 7.15-20). We don’t want to sin, but we do. We love God’s law, we recognize that it’s good, and we want to live up to it, but we often don’t (7.22, 23). Paul even goes so far as to say, “I don’t understand my actions. I don’t do what I want, but I do what I hate” (Rom. 7.15). It causes him great distress, and he expresses a desire that all creation shares: release from sin’s power and life with God without the possibility of sin’s influence (7.24; 8.22-24). He says twice that sins we struggle against are not held to our account (7.17 and 7.20). 

I John 5.16, 17 shows that a Christian who struggles with sin is still pure in God’s eyes. The key idea is struggle. We can’t fool God – He looks at our hearts to determine whether we hate the sin in our lives or welcome it with open arms (Rom. 7.27). If sin is something we hate, grace keeps us pure despite our weakness (I John 1.9, 10; 3.19-24; 4.13-19; 5.18-20; Romans 7.25)! 

This is so encouraging because it shows that God does everything within His power to keep us pure. We are lost when we reject Him to pursue a sinful lifestyle, certainly. But if we hate our sin and fight our sin, He keeps us faithful! 

Heaven is attainable, God is good. 

Over 50 members came to pray Tuesday night for our soul-winning plans, including our “Fill The Void” seminar (photo credit: Randy Simpson)

Persecution And Hope (Part Two)

Persecution And Hope (Part Two)

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Last week we looked at an account from Tacitus describing the brutality of Nero against Christians who lived during his reign. Here are a few points to take away:
 
  • Jesus was a historical person.
  • Early Christians suffered immensely. If we want an idea of Christian endurance, we should look to this as an example. We do not really face persecution in the modern world.
  • That account makes inspired passages like I Peter 1.13-2.2 and I Peter 4.7 more personal. In 1.13-2.2, the Spirit tells Christians how to live while dealing with persecution with five commands:
    • Fix Your Hope (13)
    • Be Holy (15)
    • Conduct Yourselves in Fear (17)
    • Love Each Other (22)
    • Long for Pure Milk of the Word (2.2)
  • It gives more context for the desire to be in Heaven that early Christians had (II Peter 3.13; Romans 8.20-24; II Timothy 2.12).
 
“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15.19).
Tombstone of Tacitus (via Rome Museum)
THE BLINK

THE BLINK

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

God created the world in 6 days.

144 hours. 

8,640 minutes. 

518,400 seconds. 

That’s not a lengthy period of time to create the human experience but it’s all destined to end in an instant. Just like that, time is gone— 

everybody. Everywhere. Will be carried off into eternity. 

The blink of an eye happens in 0.3 of a second. 

God gave us that ability so that we might protect our delicate corneas and sclera from dust particles and other small debris which easily aggravate the eye. 

The reflex and speed of the human blink is testimony to our mighty Creator’s designing ability but in His divine wisdom, He knew the blink would also be an illustration for the way in which He will return on day. 

The average person will blink 15 to 20 times a minute.

900 to 1,200 times an hour.

14,400 to 19,200 times a day.

100,800 to 134,400 times a week.

That’s between 5.2 and 7.1 million times a year. 

In other words, it seems like God intended to remind us all millions of times a year that He is coming back.

The blink of an eye occurs in 0.3 a second. 

You can’t hear the gospel message in that time.

You can’t believe that Jesus is the son of God in that time.

You won’t be able to repent in that amount of time.

You couldn’t confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior in that time.

You certainly can’t be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sins in that time. 

“In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.” – I Cor. 15:52

Now is the time to prepare for that last and final blink.