Becoming More Honorable

Becoming More Honorable

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

It takes a special individual of both breed and brand to truly impact the world. The fact is, many will live their lives comfortable and content to never break any molds or “step outside the box,” as they say. Most believers understand that God has called us out of this world to be lights and to be different, but that means being uncomfortable (James 1:2-4). We don’t like that aspect of faithful walking and at times the fire inside us and the will to go on is at the verge of being snuffed out. On every side we are surrounded by a raging current of mainstream ideologies and beliefs that drown the masses sweeping them closer towards eternity—unprepared. That familiar and depressing reality can discourage and frustrate us to the point of tears. Preachers, elders, and leaders are constantly fighting these feelings as they huff and puff under the weight of it all. Christian fathers and mothers anxiously worry about that painfully uncertain future their children will battle. Young people are plagued with convincing thoughts that a faithful life is all but impossible today. How can we make an impact? You may wonder what difference you could possibly make as you observe such a powerful and evil force. Here is the bad news, it’s hard. But here is the wonderful news; it’s worth it! God has given us an instruction manual on how to become mighty misfits in a culture that rejects righteousness. There are permanent footprints left by the feet of godly men throughout history, and their tracks lead to victory for those that choose to follow them.

For example, there is the trailblazer and zealous disciple, Paul. He serves as an inspiring nonconformist when he abandons his previous life of riches, respect, and comfort. His courage, faith, and determination can produce a powerful stirring in our spirits. If that man with the thorn can overcome fear and defeat the devil’s endeavors, despite his own weakness, then by the grace of God we can too. Our lives can leave an impact and they can serve as beacon of light for generations to come. 

Notice how Jabez demonstrates this point in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Within a lengthy list of family lines that make up the sons of Judah, Jabez breaks the mold. While numerous names are given, there is something more to be said of Jabez. He stands out as one who was “more honorable” than those who were before him in verse 9. Though his name means “son of my sorrow,” a label associated with affliction, he refuses to let this name define his future. 

The key to his success is given in the following verse which says, 

Jabez called upon the Lord saying, ‘oh that you would bless me, your hand be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not give me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.”

 That verse is loaded with valuable lessons for this age and every age to follow. 

Lesson one: 

Don’t interpret your future by looking at your past. 

It doesn’t matter what family you were born into or how you were raised. We all have been given at least three common blessings. If you are made in the image of God, and you are, then that means you have talent, opportunity, and a life. The amount of talent, number of opportunities, and quality of that life is irrelevant. You have everything you need to succeed which is precisely what our Father desires. 

Lesson number two: 

Only God can grant you gainful glory.

 Jabez  established his lasting legacy and was victorious because he understood one thing. God is the God of impartiality. He offers a heavenly hand to help the stereotypically weak and sinful human break the stereotype. The cards of life you hold in your hand mean little to the God who owns the deck. Jabez, Paul, and many faithful others understood the weakness of humanity. Their lives are a statement and a confession— God can help anyone rise above the crowd. He can help you achieve the only recognition that counts and give you the precious gift of a future with certainty. The path to victory is a narrow one according to Matthew 7:14. Few have found it and few have finished it, but with the right Guide it can definitely be done. Are you unsure of your current location? Look down at the tracks you are following, and the guide  walking with you. If you are holding the hand of the Savior— you can be sure you’re going in the right direction. Allow that comfort to strengthen you and break out of whatever mold you are in. Let God use your weakness and failures to leave an eternal mark on a world that needs it. There is no congregation that can’t grow, no Christian that can’t improve, and no unsaved person that doesn’t deserve the chance to hear that life changing message of the cross. There’s a great day coming, and that should provoke some excitement as well as motivate us all to diligently and fearlessly work until then.

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).  

What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people. 

David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced. 

The first giant was the giant of degradation. 

David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals. 

The second giant was that of accusation.

In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).

The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.

He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining. 

Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!

The Tie That Binds

The Tie That Binds

Tuesday Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

When it comes to the families that make up the church, what ties us together is a common bright future. While every family has its differences, one constant remains— the church. All strive to follow those guidelines laid out in scripture. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “And I’m SURE of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” 

The writer speaks with assurance and that confidence is well-placed. From His-story we see that God always completes His projects. He never dreams, He creates. He decided to create the world and here it is. He decided to save the world, and here we are. 

Paul also would write in Romans 7-8 that the flesh tends to get in the way of the spiritual. God is perfect, but we’re not. That’s what makes us a work in progress. Aren’t we thankful that God provides the solutions to “fix” us up? 

We’re involved in a great work because there simply is no better work  than what is being done by His church. That being said, many of us struggle with overcomplicating things. We try to make sense of our individual lives, and when we leave God out it all becomes a discouraging battle. Where’s the peace? Joy? Confidence? Maybe it was left behind when we left God’s path. Thankfully God came down to earth years ago to teach us everything we need to know. We see that in His interactions with people. Even His twelve original followers were an odd group. 

Each had a diverse background. Some were Fishermen and some tax collectors. 

Each one had a unique personality too! They ranged from timid to assertive.

Each one had spiritual battles from greed to crippling doubt.  

Yet each one rallied under His leadership and were united through a common hope. 

What’s changed? Not much. 

The personalities, talents, backgrounds, and flaws mixed together create a unique blend that make up each one of us. Yet, here we are rallied under His leadership, united in common hope. 

Members of the church in the Bowling Green area at an FCA fundraiser.
Bragging On The Shepherd

Bragging On The Shepherd

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

 
Have you ever been in the habit of praying the same prayer over and over again?
You’ve said that prayer as a child and it’s so familiar to you that it just rolls off the tongue. It can seem robotic and maybe this is how we read Psalm 23.
 
Many of us know this Psalm and can quote it quickly— the words fly past our lips. The author, David, practically writes this Psalm like a young boy bragging about how awesome his Father is. Let’s look at this Psalm from his perspective.
 
He says that the Shepherd is always there to protect him, lead him, restore him, and He’s concerned with his needs. He’s nothing without God, and God inspires David to articulate his view of Him.
 
Do we think of God in this way? Some might feel ashamed of Him because standing  up for Christ means saying something or doing something that makes us uncomfortable from time to time. You don’t see that in David. He’s bursting with pride because to him that relationship with the Shepherd is like no other. Today let’s humbly bow in thanksgiving and praise the perfect shepherd.
How To Win Souls Without Compromising Doctrine

How To Win Souls Without Compromising Doctrine

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

It’s hard to have balance while times change. Some seize current social realities and use them as opportunities to push unbiblical ideas (God’s design for marriage, leadership in worship, leadership in the home, etc.). As a result, our human nature kicks in and we’re ready to swing the other way. After all, we don’t want to be associated with groups who don’t teach or practice what God wants, right? 

Balance is way more difficult to maintain than reactionary practices in either direction. Both are extremely harmful to the church! Compromising doctrine is never acceptable, but gaining a reputation for being old-fashioned or otherwise incompatible with modern culture is equally harmful. 

I Corinthians 9.19-23 is an awesome text for this. We’ll look at a few key points in this passage briefly. 

  1. It’s About Serving Other People (9.19)
  2. It’s About Winning Them (9.19)
  3. It’s About Meeting Them Where They Are (9.20-22)
  4. It’s About the Message (9.23)

We do what we do because we want to save souls. We cannot maintain a church culture based on reaction because it does not save souls. It is not a sustainable culture and has led to many viewing the church as being incompatible with the modern world. This was never God’s design! We must never compromise doctrine, but we must always try to win souls. We need to do what we can to meet folks where they are and show them something better. 

“I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (9.20). 

“In The Wilderness”

“In The Wilderness”

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

The original Hebrew name literally means, “In The Wilderness.” Later on, Greek translators referred to these inspired writings as “Numbers.” For the Israelite people, it was the historical record of how they were shaped and Divinely-groomed while making an unnecessarily long hike through desert lands (Not to be confused with “dessert land” which sounds far better). The book of Numbers also served, and still serves, as a way for God’s people to get a bird’s-eye view of how our lives are significantly better when we are following our Leader. While there are far too many spiritual applications to be in just one article, here are three great ones. 

  1. There is no one more patient than the Lord. It’s easy to cringe when the Israelites complain or rebel time and again but God showed them more patience than any of us are capable of. 
  2. God always keeps a promise. It may have taken them 40 years to reach Canaan, but He kept His promise. We’re on a wild ride right now as a country, but God is predictable when it comes to keeping His Word. You can make a no-risk bet that heaven is coming and it’s better than what you imagine it to be. 
  3. God is always glorified in the end. When you look at Numbers and the big picture, God is the hero. He’s rejected and tossed aside by the people on several occasions, but just like at the end of this age— He gets all the glory. 
JETHRO

JETHRO

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Jethro is one of my favorite Old Testament people. His efforts in Exodus 18 seem to be what he’s remembered most for. Yet, he is quite an impressive person from the time we meet him in the beginning of the book of Exodus.

  • Jethro was an appreciative man (Ex. 2:20). Moses met Jethro’s family after fleeing from the Pharaoh’s wrath following Moses’ murder of an Egyptian taskmaster. Moses helps Jethro’s seven daughters by fending off some mischievous shepherds and caring for the man’s sheep and family’s water needs. When Jethro heard of this, he asked his daughters, “Why is it that you have left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” Jethro was eager to quickly, tangibly show his thanks for Moses’ kindness.
  • Jethro was a spiritual man (Ex. 2:16; 3:1). One of the first facts we learn about the man is that he is “the priest of Midian.” He likely was the chief representative of the people in religious sacrifice, though it seems that when Moses meets him he has not yet learned who the true and only God is. That realization comes later (Ex. 18:10-11), but his role as spiritual leader is introduced to us from the beginning though with no details of it in the text.
  • Jethro was an accommodating man (Ex. 4:18). When the time came and Moses heeded God’s bidding to confront the Pharaoh, it meant separating himself from his work and living arrangements in Midian. Moses pleaded with his father-in-law, and Jethro made that easy for him, telling him, “Go in peace.” Jacob’s father-in-law had not been so kind. What a contrast in this man who saw the bigger picture and made his son-in-law’s departure that much easier.
  • Jethro was a sensible man (Ex. 18). This is the quality of the man about which we have heard most. Jethro’s appeal to Moses’ common sense, to get help from the people in judging the people, has served as a role model in spiritual leadership for centuries. Jethro could see the effect of the old, broken system on both Moses and the people. He sized it up, saying, “The thing that you are doing is not good” (17). But, a sensible man does more than raise the specter of the problem. He offers a solution (19-23), and it works beautifully (24-26).

One of the marvel’s of the Bible’s inspiration is seeing the supporting cast of men and women whose lives crossed the people we know best in Scripture. Moses was perhaps the most prominent figure of Old Testament history, so those whose lives he touched show up at several points. Jethro is one of the most interesting of them all.

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 The People Project  

 The People Project  

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

This post is for the lady across the street. She works at the gas station. This post is for Charles. That’s the guy we always call when the office printer breaks down or a leaky roof needs repaired. This article is for my family. My family means the world to me and if my life can help ensure an eternal future together (and I mean every one of them) then I have accomplished something truly great. This post is for my wife. My wife will be in heaven with me— she must be! The truth is, this post is for the faithful child of God, the disgruntled member in the pew, the discouraged elder, and frustrated preacher— this post is for people. It’s for the new child of God that is still dripping wet from the waters of baptism, to the battle-hardened Christian with years of faithful service. God drew a line in the sand long ago after humans fell from grace and separated ourselves from Him. On one side of that line you have the lost. Their sheer abundance in our communities and the world has caused many congregations to become numb to their horrific eternal state. Still, on the other side of that line you have the faithful. No, not the uncommitted pew-warmers, but the faithful. Sadly there are those inside the church that are on the wrong side of the Divine line. Often they blend in with the faithful because they look and act like the faithful do. This is nothing new, but elderships still scratch their heads over stunted growth and disappearing members. Preachers lose their voices as they pound evangelism and outreach from the pulpit. The reservoirs are being depleted by years of drought. 

You’ll hear a lot of this kind of talk in some men’s meetings as the guys will sit around the table. After drinking coffee and filling their bellies with biscuits and gravy, it’s common for them to kick back and discuss what’s going on in the church. Obviously there are some big issues! So, who’s to blame? In an attempt to unmask the villain, one middle aged man exclaims, “if the leaders would _______”. A couple of his friends, who have clearly visited this topic a few times, nod their heads in approval. Another gentleman, with a white mustache, grunts as he repositions himself in his tin folding chair. Talk like this is uncomfortable, and it’s exhausting for many of them. The head hog at the trough clears his throat to let the others know he’s about to offer his respected opinion. He squints his eyes, leans back, then makes this statement. “It’s really society, you know. People just don’t go to church like they did when I was growing up!” Following this declaration, most of them will give their affirming “Mmm”’s and “exactly rights.” It’s at this point the tragic generational blame game begins. The wheels spin for a while, then everyone gets up and goes back to their homes to enjoy the rest of their Saturday. Tomorrow morning they dress up in their suits and ties and drive to worship. At worship they sit in the same spot, as the service carries on in it’s usual order. 

In a world full of people intent on destroying and demonizing one another, the church needs to be the church— now more than ever. Our communities, friends, family, and nation need us to be the church. That starts with you and me. Paul said, “Encourage and build one another up…” in 1 Thessalonians 5:11. We can’t do this enough, and we can’t overstate it’s importance. Who have you encouraged and built up this week? How will you do it today? The church is God’s way of improving people, and  the church is God’s perfect project— for people. 

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Elders Who Shepherd

Elders Who Shepherd

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

There was a problem with the shepherds of Ezekiel’s day. They tended to their own needs, but not the flock’s (34:2-3). There were tangible needs and problems, but these shepherds sinned by omission (34:4). The sheep were scattered and these shepherds did not work to get them back or save them from predators (34:5-6). Then, God through Ezekiel utters these harrowing words: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep” (34:10). 

In the New Testament, Paul tells the elders of the church at Ephesus to “be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Guard the flock, watch over the flock, and shepherd the flock. What a weighty work! To be on guard means “to be in a continuous state of readiness to learn of any future danger, need, or error, and to respond appropriately” (Louw-Nida 332). An overseer has the responsibility of seeing to the spiritual safety and proper conduct first of themselves but also of those they watch over (Arndt 379). The idea of shepherding indicates care, concern, love, provision, relationship and intimacy, knowledge, and familiarity (see Kittel et al 902ff). These lexicographers who define what Bible words mean give insight into what elders are to be like as they do this crucial work. Isn’t it incredible and encouraging to see spiritual, albeit inevitably imperfect, men who “aspire to the office of overseer” (1 Tim. 3:1)?

Yesterday is a day I’ll never forget. We tagged along with three elders and their wives as they went around to 26 houses of members of our congregation. Exercising due caution under the current medical crisis, they nonetheless drove to see members young, old, and in-between. They visited with, sang to, and prayed for so many face to face, delivering Dana’s delicious baked goods. Seeing their enthusiasm to do this and watching the genuine joy on their faces as they served and ministered was a blessing that will stoke my spiritual fire for a long time to come. 

But, that’s just what I got to see. I’m not seeing the other times they’ve done this. I’m not there as they’re making so many phone calls to everyone. Over the weekend, they met together for several hours to strategize about a reopening and communication plan not just to get back to “normal” but to thrive and grow as we go into the future. Another of the elders has since spent hours piecing together that plan to provide clear communication to the church. 

All of them work full-time jobs and are hard workers. All of them have families to love and care for. All of them have hobbies and interests. But, all of them have Christ in the center of their hearts and lives. That last fact is what drives them to know about, care about, and reach out to the sheep. 

Thank God for the many churches who are being shepherded through unprecedented times like these by engaged, concerned, and involved shepherds. Church growth, doctrinal soundness, examples of Christ-centered living, and so much more depend on elders who shepherd. Will you take the names of your shepherds to the throne of God each day, imitate their faith, and assist them in their work? They are a vital part of God’s plan to touch and transform eternity! 

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Only ten in this group picture! 

Responding To The Purge

Responding To The Purge

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

I rarely watch television. I find most programming today unimaginative (e.g. reboots) and fraught with immorality. When I do watch something, it’s likely a sporting event, home improvement show, or vintage sitcom. As I was catching a few minutes of a classic sitcom, my dad remarked that one of the actresses on screen died from cancer during the run of the show. Curious, I looked up information about the show on the internet. In so doing, I encountered a curious expression: “rural purge.”

In 1970, American broadcasters, particularly CBS, put the ax to lighthearted, rural-themed and folksy shows then airing on TV in favor of more socially progressive urban and suburban-set shows. Pat Buttram, the actor who played the role of “Mr. Haney” on Green Acres, is quoted by Ken Berry as saying of the rural purge “It was the year CBS killed everything with a tree in it.” 1  Ken Berry thought that CBS was tired of being teased as the “Country Broadcasting System” since they perceived themselves as the “Tiffany Network” because of their vaunted news division. 2 It had been the executive in charge of programming at CBS who was tired of the shows and canceled them despite their good Nielsen ratings. The absence of family-friendly fare did not go unnoticed by the public, including even politicians like President Nixon. 3

The “rural purge” suggests several Biblical points to me. First, it demonstrates an unfortunate characteristic of fallen human nature that the proven (and wholesome) is often dumped for something else simply because of its “novelty.” God noted this was likewise true in Jeremiah’s day. When He advised them to take the established path, they refused (Jeremiah 6.16). They preferred their new, idolatrous way.

Second, it shows us why leadership matters. Paul warned the coming apostasy would begin with the elders (Acts 20.29-30.) I am mindful of congregations about which I’ve read in some of our brotherhood publications where the Biblical pattern was changed after the elders “reconsidered an issue prayerfully.” The sheep who know that their shepherds are leading them astray are left with a dilemma. Despite nothing being wrong previously, changes were foisted upon them by the leadership. Their family is changed. What will they do?

Lastly, it shows the importance of perseverance.

As the “rural purge” continued, there arose an anomaly. To placate the aforementioned public complaints, CBS reluctantly greenlighted a Christmas special based on a story by Earl Hamner, Jr. They purposely pitted it against popular shows on other networks they felt would crush their program! It didn’t. It was such a hit that CBS had no choice but to develop it into a new series that would run for 9 seasons. The Waltons. Because people refused to give up and give in to whims of the programing executive at CBS, a renaissance of family-friendly programs on all networks began.

Sometimes we feel as if our efforts are wasted, especially when it comes to our sinful culture. However, we are told that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. So, we are exhorted to remain steadfast (1 Corinthians 15.58). God ensures that His Word doesn’t return void and gives increase when faithfully spoken (Isaiah 55.11; 1 Corinthians 3.5-7). Therefore, let us stand and let our voices be heard, even if we find ourselves amid a “Christian purge.”

 

References

1 “Television Academy Interviews.” Television Academy Interviews, Television Academy, 22 Feb. 2019, interviews.televisionacademy.com/interviews/ken-berry?clip=60761#highlight-clips.

2 ibid

3 “Rural Purge.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Feb. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rural_purge.

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