Tips For Improving Your Outlook

Tips For Improving Your Outlook

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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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.

Crisis

Crisis

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

  • 1918 had the Spanish Flu pandemic that killed at least 675,000 people in the United States and 50,000,000 worldwide.
  • 1929 birthed the Great Depression, a multi year period of societal upheaval and economic collapse.
  • 1941 ultimately led to our involvement in a world war after the attack at Pearl Harbor.
  • 1963 saw the dramatic assassination of JFK.
  • 1986 put a damper on the excitement of space exploration with the tragedy of the Challenger explosion.
  • Violent crime rose dramatically from the 60’s to the 90’s, enough that most people no longer left their houses unlocked and were less likely to trust their fellow people.
  • 2001 marked the beginning of a global war on terror with an awful display of evil.
  • 2008 saw the Great Recession, the aftermath of which may be one of the causes of our great political division.
  • 2020 was a train wreck we need not discuss further.
 
This is by no means an exhaustive list! It covers some major events that affected Americans in the last 100 years, but much more could easily be said about the negatives of our history.
 
This is important: Immunity was attained after two years of the Spanish Flu pandemic. Lifespans increased by a few years during the Depression and led to a hearty generation of folks who helped to win the Second World War. That war, as horrible as it was, led to many incredible breakthroughs in medical and other sciences, not to mention historically unprecedented economic prosperity. The 1960s at least exposed the ungodly, ugly nature of hatred and racism, leading to some positive changes that were long overdue.
 
Even in the worst of times, good happens. But even if it doesn’t, hope is invulnerable! For a Christian, these issues are simply the result of a fallen world and they’re temporary. The end of life for us is the beginning! We have one important thing that no crisis can destroy: hope. We are absolutely certain that death will be the moment we get to live in a perfect world with our creator (see also II Peter 3.13ff; Matthew 19.28; Ephesians 1.18ff).
 
Nothing can or should dampen our faith in God, our hope for a better life, our mission to pull people out of darkness, our attitude, our love for each other, our dedication to spiritual growth, our responsibility to take care of people, our resilience in difficult times, and our critical compulsion to emulate Jesus in every possible way while we still breathe.
Pointless Baggage

Pointless Baggage

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

On Paul’s third missionary journey he would write to a congregation in Rome. Today this letter is viewed as sone of the most theologically deep books in our New Testament. Some think that there are portions of Scripture that are best left alone, or that only a preacher or Bible teacher can decipher the “code.” When we do some digging into the original audience that Paul was writing to, we see something interesting. He was delivering these deep theological concepts to a church that seemed to be largely lacking in spiritual knowledge. In fact, some of the members of this 1st-century church believed that God was glorified through their sins! Clearly they had some growing to do. Paul didn’t say they needed to stick with simple Christian concepts or the basics; he still tries to teach them the difficult and more complicated aspects of Christianity.

This is a call for us to challenge ourselves in our daily studies. The Bible was meant to be understood, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t take some effort on our part. The book of Romans is a rewarding book to study. In fact, it’s difficult to find another book that can give the Christian more joy and confidence in their salvation. In Romans 8:1, Paul writes, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” At first glance this may just be a verse that many skim past because of how familiar we are with it. When we study the application of such a simple verse, in context, the benefits are incredible.

There’s no need to agonize over our relationship with Christ, if we’re in Christ. Paul simplifies our salvation by telling us that if we have obeyed the gospel and we’re striving to follow Jesus, we don’t have to live in fear of our standing before God. In fact, this phrase, “in Christ,” appears 172 times in the New Testament, but it’s a phrase that is largely misunderstood. Some Christians believe that through the course of their week they bounce from “saved” to “lost” on a daily basis. The idea of being “in” Christ is really describing a spiritual union— much like marriage! You don’t wake up everyday and ask your spouse,  “Are we still married?” and then worry throughout the day that despite your spouse’s confirmation, you’re just not convinced that you’re really married to them. If we haven’t done anything to separate that union with Christ, we can live confidently knowing we are saved.

What a wonderful feeling. The book of Romans is one that helps us to let of any pointless baggage and live a life of peace and joy. 

Tell Me About Grace

Tell Me About Grace

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

  1. Grace brings peace (1 Thessalonians 1:1).
  2. Grace gives us favor with God (Romans 3:24).
  3. Grace is the generous attitude God has towards His people (Ephesians 1:6).
  4. Grace brings salvation to sinful man (Titus 2:11).
  5. Grace teaches us how to live (Titus 2:11-12).
  6. Grace gives us a glimpse of God’s Character (John 1:16).
  7. Grace appeared in the flesh (Titus 2:11).
  8. Grace originated from God (Eph. 2:4-5).
  9. Grace is powerful (2 Corinthians 12:9).
  10. Grace helps put Heaven in view (Acts 15:11).
  11. Grace helps us be the salt of the earth (Acts 4:33).
  12. Grace is an attribute of Christ (John 1:14).
  13. Grace is an attribute of Christians (2 Corinthians 8:7).
  14. Grace puts the word “Christ” in Christian (John 1:17).
  15. Grace is a powerful motivator (Titus 2:13-14).
  16. Grace is a gift (that is often left unopened, Ephesians 2:8).
  17. Grace gives us hope (Romans 6:14).
  18. Grace shows us the love of God (Romans 5:8).
  19. Grace brings comfort (Hebrews 4:16).
  20. Grace is given to the humble (James 4:6).
  21. Grace gives us strength ( 2 Timothy 2:1).
 
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
 
T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.
The Lifeboat Baby

The Lifeboat Baby

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

While many today have no idea who Jesse Roper Mohorovic is, he was a celebrity from the moment of his birth on March 30, 1942, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The United States had entered World War II only a few months before, and German U-Boats “prowled the Atlantic sea lanes, and the waters off the Virginia-Carolina coast were ‘the most dangerous on earth'” (C. Brian Kelly, Military History, 9/05, 74). In fact, the Germans killed twice as many seamen in their U-boat campaign off the east coast than died at Pearl Harbor. 

Jesse’s mother, Desanka, was 8 1/2 months pregnant, traveling on a passenger freighter that was torpedoed. She faced peril after peril, from getting out of her cabin to the harrowing escape in a lifeboat to an overnight storm. In the middle of all of it, the freighter sunk and her doctor injured in their dramatic escape, she gave birth in Lifeboat #4 to a baby boy at 2:30 A.M. Two days later, they were rescued by the Navy destroyer Jesse Roper. 

The media covered many of the early milestones of his life, and even documented his interests and favorite baseball team. He later appeared on the TV shows To Tell The Truth and I’ve Got A Secret. He earned a law degree, served in the Navy, and had a career in marketing. He died of lung cancer about two years after his 2003 retirement (via JOC.com). 

It is no wonder that “The Lifeboat Baby” would become such a sensation, especially given the real drama behind his birth. Perhaps he would have been part of anonymous tragedy if he and his mother had been among the 5000 who perished, but his birth and life became a symbol of hope and victory. Indeed, “Newspapers heralded Jesse as living proof the Allies could not be defeated” (Kelly). 

We live in increasingly grim times. Our current battle is spiritual in nature, as sin and immorality seem to have the upper hand. Souls are perishing in infinitely greater numbers (cf. Mat. 7:13-14). While we cannot save them all, we need to be in search of those we can reach with the gospel. We must muster greater courage to share the good news and help those searching reach safety. They need to know there is hope and victory possible, and that Christ will ultimately win (1 John 5:4-5; 1 Cor. 15:24-25).  These babes in Christ are unlikely to capture the attention of the media, but each of them have the rapt attention of heaven. God is counting on you and me helping to deliver them, regardless of how stormy things may be. Each individual matters to God. How wonderful that we might partner with God and His Word, and help a soul be one whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 21:27)!

 

Photo via Naval History and Heritage Command
What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

What Happens After “Happily Ever After”?

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

It’s something they never tell you in the romantic movie. The ending of the storyline so full of twists and turns, where he and she might not have ended up together but seemed destined to be together, is so happy and perfect. Both are all smiles, with stars in their eyes, when we see “The End” and the credits roll.

They never tell you what happens after the fairy tale wedding or the long-awaited kiss. He refuses to ask directions as they fade into the sunset. They argue over where to eat that romantic dinner. He speaks without thinking and says something thoughtless, followed by tense silence. 

I am not critiquing one of the sacrosanct principles of romantic movies and books. Happy endings can be a great escape from reality and a feel good experience. Yet, when we hold it up as the unqualified expectation for our own lives, we set ourselves up for trouble. Social media is rife with posts and pictures which can perpetuate the fiction that the people we friend and follow are constantly living out “happily ever after.” Life is always grand, and success and satisfaction is the constant. 

Don’t misunderstand. So much of what we experience in life is shaped by attitude. Being positive can help us negotiate those hairpin curves in the road of life. But, coping through positivity is different from allowing disappointment to make us disenchanted with failing to meet the unrealistic expectation that every problem and adversity can be wrapped up into a pretty, neat package with a frilly bow on top. 

It’s quite the balancing act, isn’t it? Scripture teaches to think on healthy, beneficial things come what may (Phil. 4:8). Or, as Solomon puts it, “All the days of the afflicted are bad, but a cheerful heart has a continual feast” (Prov. 15:15). Yet, Job (14:1) and Solomon (Ecc. 2:23) do not sugarcoat the reality that life is often painful, grievous, and full of trouble both day and night. 

May I offer some encouragement?

  • To the newlyweds, neither of you is perfect and there is no way you can always agree and get along without mutual compromise and effort. You will have so many great days, but there will be some mountains to climb and valleys you must pass through. No couple out there is breezing through married life. Turning to one another (and God) rather than on one another when marriage is hard will forge your bond come what may (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • To the new parents, though that baby looks perfect and angelic, he or she will introduce demands, needs, concerns, and challenges you never knew existed before. Each developmental stage will be accompanied by incredible highs and lows. As you look into the faces of your children, you will be looking at eternity and knowing the weight of your decisions and leadership. But, savor those little ordinary moments. You are placing puzzle pieces that will one day become your children’s picture of their childhood. How you handled the hard times will be at least as important as how you handled the fun times (Prov. 22:6). 
  • To the new Christian, it is right for you to relish the feeling of relief and joy over being forgiven and cleansed from sins. The burden of guilt has been lifted. You are experiencing something in Christ that you never knew existed. But, there will be difficult days. The devil lurks (1 Pet. 5:8). Selfish desires can derail (Jas. 1:13-15). Suffering for your faith should be expected (1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 14:22), but by hanging on your eternal destiny is better than you can imagine. Along the journey, you will grow, mature, and develop into someone better and stronger as Christ lives in you (Gal. 2:20). 
  • To the Christian who publicly repents, you had no idea how much support, love, and encouragement you were going to receive. You feel the relief of forgiveness and restored hope. There’s clarity and purpose where there had been confusion and distraction. Things are better now (cf. Jas. 5:16; 1 Jn. 1:9), but the battles and temptations that led you away are still there. You will still have to face the consequences of bad choices, but you will not regret turning to God and your spiritual family for help. This is the first step of your rededication. Keep walking and never stop (Mat. 7:13-14; 1 Th. 2:12).

There are so many other phases and circumstances deserving the same kind of encouragement. The bottom line for each is the same. When viewed with heavenly eyes, each of us is staring at the ultimate happy ending. Even as our exterior deteriorates, our inner man is renewed daily (2 Cor. 4:16). Our momentary difficulties will give way to incomparable glory (2 Cor. 4:17-18).  The best is yet to come (2 Cor. 5). But, between now and then, we all have to negotiate bumps in the road. That’s OK. Keep following Christ on this narrow road and the “ever after” will transcend your greatest hopes (Mat. 16:24ff). 

Words For The Aching Heart 

Words For The Aching Heart 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Why do we hurt? In Bible classes and in sermons you have been pointed to scriptures such as James 1:2, which says, “Count it all joy my brethren, when you fall into various trials.” You may then find yourself wondering about that specific trial you are forced to miserably wade through. 

Perhaps you think, “But what good could possibly come from this?” Or maybe you even question, “why would God let me experience this kind of heartache?” This is when a faithful Christian may sink into a pessimistic kind of bitterness that slowly steals each smile and smothers even the faintest glimmer of hope. If Jesus could sit with you and lovingly give you some wisdom, I’d imagine this is what He’d say.

I dreaded that cross, the cruel instrument of death.
I felt such intense emotion with each painful and strained breath.
Embarrassed, I was stretched naked amid a hateful crowd—
but prayed for their forgiveness, with my bleeding head bowed.

I intimately knew trauma, isolation, abandonment, and shame.
I lost everything for everyone, so peace and glory you would gain.
It’s that joy I’ve set before you, even seen through tearful eyes,
that will push you, as it did Me, through each valley and each sigh. 

No matter what you’re fighting here, don’t worry, stress or fear.
Today it hurts, tomorrow it’s over, in the twinkling of an eye I’ll appear.
Life is brief and fragile like that of a lowly dove, and like the dove,
with broken wing still mending, look hopefully above.
–Dale Pollard
(These words were inspired by the words found in Hebrews 12:1-3.)

I’d like to encourage you, if you’re suffering through a trial in life, to read Psalm 69.  It’s a lament psalm, which may help you put into words what your aching heart is feeling.

“What we really need and what the psalms of lament provide is a way to live through times of disorientation with God as an intimate traveling companion.”
– Glenn Pemberton

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