Three Men Named Ananias

Three Men Named Ananias

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Recently, I heard Dr. Ted Burleson point out that the book of Acts reveals three men named Ananias. The first one is in Acts five, the second one is in Acts nine, and the last one is in Acts 23. Those three men are very much unalike from one another in some basic, important ways.

The Ananias in Acts 5 was a Christian known for lying to Peter and to God about his offering. On the heels of Barnabas’ publicized and praised generosity, this man conspired with his wife to deceive the church about how much they were giving. While we do not read his words or even read that he spoke, it is implied that he did talk this over with Sapphira. His entire legacy is of a liar! Isn’t it tragic that the rest of his life, including his conversion, are completely omitted. This is all we know about him. What a sobering object lesson that I can undo a great deal of other good in my life if I let sin reign in my heart!

The Ananias in Acts 23 was the Jewish High Priest Paul stood before after he was arrested in Jerusalem. “Ananias was High Priest from A.D. 47 to 66, when he was assassinated by the Jews because of his support of the Romans during the Jewish uprising” (Newman and Nida, 432). We also learn that he was “famous for bribery and plunder of temple offerings” (Gangal, 386). Then we see, “His action (having Paul struck on the mouth, NP) was completely in character. Josephus depicted him as one of the very worst of the high priests, known for his pro-Roman sentiments, his extreme cruelty, and his greed” (Polhill, 468). He is known both in Scripture and out of Scripture for being unscrupulous. He will lead the attack against Paul before Felix (Acts 24:1-9). Not only does he refuse to accept Christ, he persecutes and attacks Christ’s messengers. He went out into eternity a sworn enemy of Jesus. At the Judgment, he will stand before Him! He reminds me that life is about preparing for eternity, and it is tragic to live for self in this life and reject the One who died for me.

The Ananias in the middle, in Acts 9, is completely unlike the other two who shared his name. He is introduced to us as a “disciple” (10). The Lord chose him for a choice mission, to go preach to Saul of Tarsus (10). As fearful as that task understandably was, he obeyed the Lord and went (11-17). Acts 22 adds that he was devout (God-fearing)(12), well-spoken of by other Jews in Damascus (12), and a faithful preacher (14) who was bold in message (16). Jesus did not convert Saul on the road; He chose a human messenger on earth to preach to him. Of all the disciples he could have chosen, this Ananias was given the opportunity. This man seized the opportunity and helped give the world the greatest preacher, save Jesus, the world has ever known! Nothing is said about this man after he preached to Saul. Whatever else happened in his life, Ananias is praised for his courage and faithfulness. He is forever linked to this eventual apostle, the man who baptized the ultimate world evangelist whose name we all know 2,000 years later. 

There are other “Neals” in the world today. None of us have our names in the Bible, but which of us will have our names in the “book of life” (Phil. 4:3; Rev. 3:5)? Of course, the same is true of you whatever your name is. How we respond to the Lord’s grace as well as His will matters. Ask Sapphira’s husband. Ask Paul’s antagonizer. Ask Paul’s preacher. We have one life to prepare for the next life. May we so live that our name will be associated with the Name above all names (Phil. 2:9-10)!  

“I Drive A Donkey”

“I Drive A Donkey”

Neal Pollard

There is an obscure Bible character that holds a great deal of fascination for me.  His name is Harbona(h) and his name only appears twice, both in connection with the account of Esther.  He is introduced in Esther 1:10 and plays a key role in this divine story of providence in Esther 7:9.  His name means “donkey driver.”  Granted, his name means more than that.  The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names says his name means, “Warlike; martial; a destroyer. Ass driver; the anger of him who builds” (Cornwall and Smith 96).  Harbonah was the eunuch in Ahaseurus’ court who informed the king of Haman’s treachery, saying, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Hanan made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!”  Ahaseurus, true to form, wasted no time and said, “Hang him on it.”  Thus, ended the life of the man who tried to end the life of the Jews, through whom the Messiah of the world would eventually be born.  Thus, Harbonah has an important footnote in the beautiful unfolding of God’s providence in the life and book of Esther.  His name is favorably included in only sacred volume God ever moved men to write.  That’s a pretty good legacy for a man whose name means “donkey driver.”

All of us are probably curious, if uninformed, about what our name means.  I once learned that my middle name, by which as a “junior” I am called, Neal, means “champion.”  Lest I should be exalted above measure, my first name, Gary, means “hunting dog.”  My surname, Pollard, means “tree topper.”  Thus, taken together, I can be proud to know that my full name means “champion hunting dog tree topper.”  Solomon wrote about a good name, calling it better than it is more desired than great wealth (Prov. 22:1) and better than a good ointment (Ecc. 7:1).  Regardless of what your given name means, what means most and how your name will be remembered on the lips of others, good or bad, is determined by what you do on this earth as is associated with that name.  So even if your name is Rafe Bosephus McGillicutty, that name will be sweet on others’ lips if how you wear your name honors the Lord and promotes His cause.

I Had No Idea What “Pollard” Meant!

I Had No Idea What “Pollard” Meant!

Neal Pollard

For years, I’ve told people the two things I knew about my surname—(a) It’s English and (b) it means “tree topper.” It gave me a little satisfaction to think of my solidly blue-collar roots.  Other research shows my ancestors to have been among the early inhabitants of this country, as one Robert Pollard, II, was born in Devon, England, in 1610 and died in King and Queen County, Virginia, in 1668. Anne Pollard was the first female to step foot on Boston’s shores (info from Maurice J. Pollard’s The History of the Pollard family in America, 1961). You’ll find Pollards in the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War (Asa Pollard was “the first man to fall at Bunker Hill”), and the Civil War (Pollard Genealogy, Stephen Pollard, 1902, p. 3ff, via babel.hathitrust.org). As pride swells, I drive by ancestry.com only to find earlier history.  The name is actually Irish, dating back to the 14th Century, and it was a “nickname for a person with a large or unusually shaped head.” Wow. Not that I don’t know that from trying on hats my whole life. In my case, try freakishly huge melon. I’m extra-Pollard!

So, I maintain a mixture of pride and humility as I trace my name back through history.  That is due to more than etymology.  If I look hard enough at genealogy, I’ll find some Pollards who make me proud and some that make me ashamed that we share the same last name.  Even in contemporary times with Pollards I know I’m related to, this will be the case.

Solomon wrote, “A good name is better than a good ointment” (Ecc. 7:1a).  He said, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth” (Prov. 22:1a).  That gets more personal.  When people hear my name, they have distinct, specific thoughts about my character, my nature, and my reputation.  Over a lifetime, there have been people who have known me who may have a bad taste in their mouths when they say my name.  Occasionally, as I’ve dealt with people in customer service situations, my name might not be the sweetest on their lips.  When I think of my failure to be an example as a Christian before the world, going back to days when I was in school, my name did not always have a true association with the name of Christ.

What does your name mean? What does your name mean to the people you work with, go to school with, do business with, and live near?  What does your name mean to the people who know you best?  We wear the name of Christ, as Christians, and we must strive to honor that great name! He’s counting on us to promote His name through the way we wear our name and His name each day.

What Is Your Name Associated With?

What Is Your Name Associated With?

Neal Pollard

Some names ring not just with familiarity, but downright notoriety.  Walenda is a name synonymous with daring, high wire acts.  Falcone is associated with mobsters and organized crime.  The Hearst family has long been connected with newspaper publication, Forbes with finance and fortune, Morgan with banking, and Bronte with literature.  Hilton and Kardashian? Well… Certainly, we could make a long list of surnames synonymous with particular endeavors bringing either fame or infamy.  In the Lord’s church, the name Nichols, Jenkins, Winkler, and others evoke an even more positive image of souls reached through a shared legacy of full-time service to the Lord.

Each of us has been endowed with a precious commodity, the name bequeathed to us by our forbearers.  Often, they have worked hard to polish and protect that name, to honor it and leave it as a legacy of character rather than shame.  It does not take much for us to tarnish that name and leave behind a name our descendants must live down.  All it takes is one person to leave a notability which embarrasses.  Just ask the Hitlers, O’Hares, Ingersolls, Bordens, Stalins, and Kevorkians.

Of course, the most important thing about our name is spiritual.  Do I wear the name of Christ?  If I claim to wear His name, what do I do to honor, glorify, and spread the good influence of His name?  When people see my name, do they associate it with Christ and all good attributes that should go along with that?  We want to live so that when we stand before Christ, we will hear our names called with those who spend eternity with Him in heaven!  How you are doing with your name? How are you doing with His name?

What Makes “In Jesus’ Name” So Offensive?

What Makes “In Jesus’ Name” So Offensive?

Neal Pollard

At Planet Fitness this morning I caught a glimpse of an old “Fresh Prince” episode, where Will Smith’s character was getting married.  During the ceremony, the preacher prayed, beginning “Dear Heavenly Father” but ending “in Your Name, Amen.”  With the recent controversy about the omission of Jesus’ name in prayers by the Robertsons on the very popular “Duck Dynasty” series, I was surprised that this trend goes back at least a few years.  In an interview on YouTube, Phil Robertson talked to producers who surmised that editors in Hollywood thought the name of Jesus, in prayer, would offend some viewers.  Certainly, judging from court cases, from the ACLU’s lawsuit against government bodies in North Carolina praying in Jesus’ name at their meetings to Freedom From Religion’s bullying Kanawha County, West Virginia, into ceasing prayer in Jesus’ name before its High School football games.  As Annie Laurie Gaynor, co-president of FFR, contended, “We are not a Christian nation, this is not a Christian school district, football games…are not Christian football games” (Dave Boucher, Charleston Daily-Mail, 9/24/12).

Certainly, we understand that we live in a climate of political correctness.  That seems to mean that any attempt to honor and glorify Christ in any public way is offensive.  Yet, why is such so offensive in certain circles?

  • In His name is salvation (Mt. 1:21; Ac. 4:10-12).
  • In His name is life (Jn. 20:31).
  • In His name is remission of sins (Ac. 2:38).
  • In His name is healing (Ac. 3:6).
  • In His name is true unity (1 Co. 1:10).
  • In His name is justification from sins (1 Co. 6:11).
  • In His name is supremacy (Ph. 2:10).
  • In His name is authority (Co. 3:17).

Truly, as the songwriter says, “Jesus, name above all names. Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord. Emmanuel, God is with us, blessed Redeemer, living word.”  There is something about that name!  It is the sweetest name on the tongues of those who know Him.  It symbolizes judgment, unwanted accountability, objective standards, and exclusivity for those who refuse to know Him.  Rebellion is as old as mankind, but what they are missing who reject His name in life.  Some day, at that very name, everyone will be compelled to bow (Ph. 2:10-11).  To do so then will be too late.  To do so now opens the door to joy here and eternally.