THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEART AND ATTITUDE

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN HEART AND ATTITUDE

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

Jesus was teaching around the Sea of Galilee when some Pharisees from Jerusalem saw some of His disciples eating bread with unwashed hands. They considered this ceremonial impurity (Mark 7:1-2). Mark gives a short list of examples of rules the Pharisees inherited from their forefathers and pushed as divine law (3-5). This law-making upsets Jesus considerably. In Mark 7:6-13, Jesus rebukes them for confusing tradition and God’s commandments. They were so in love with their traditions that it actually caused them to violate God’s will. 

Then, He uses that episode as a springboard to discuss a related spiritual concern. The central thought was, “The things that proceed out of a man are what defile the man” (15b). The point was probably missed on the crowd because it was missed by the disciples (17). Mark tells us that Jesus was declaring all foods clean (19), but there was a deeper, spiritual point. He makes it plainly when He says, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man” (20-23).

I wonder how this initially hits the disciples. The Pharisees definitely would not have appreciated it. They considered themselves spiritually superior, but context would suggest they would have been as big offenders as anyone in this. Some of what comes out of the heart that Jesus mentions is “big” enough to make our sin’s “hall of fame” or at least its “all-star” team. Wouldn’t you be quick to put fornication, theft, murder, adultery, and wickedness on the “evil things” list?

But Jesus digs deeper and exposes our hearts further. Look at what makes His “big” list with those other sins: evil thoughts (literally, harmful reasoning), deceit, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness (lack of good judgment). Before we brush these aside, consider some practical application.

What is it when we assume others’ intentions and motives without tangible evidence? What about when we have such a tainted perception of someone that we cannot be civil and peaceable, much less tenderhearted, kind, and forgiving toward them (cf. Eph. 4:32)? What of using opportunities to gossip and slander a brother or sister in Christ? What about the words we say when our pride is wounded or we feel slighted? What about a failure to be discreet about people’s situations we come into the knowledge of? 

Scripture tells us how vitally important a good, Christlike attitude is. Philippians uses the word “mind” to admonish proper attitude. A mind fueled by encouragement, love, affection, and compassion lead not only to unity, humility, and high regard for others, but it also reflects the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:1-11). It eliminates grumbling and disputing (Phil. 2:14). It shows us to be above reproach in the middle of a world that lives out the kinds of things Jesus reproves in Mark 7:20-23 (Phil. 2:15). 

If I have a heart filled with the kind of “evil things” in Jesus’ Mark seven list, how can I have the right, Christlike attitude He expects me to have? I will likely be biting, sarcastic, bitter, hateful, negative, complaining, and critical. Whatever that says about the object of my bad attitude, it does not excuse me in His eyes. He would tell me I am defiled. That means unclean and unacceptable. To see it that way convicts me to watch my heart so that acidic content does not spill out and hurt my reputation, my relationships, and my Righteous Ruler! 

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. 

Choosing Our Attitude

Choosing Our Attitude

 Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

Two birds flew over a desert. Both birds saw the same scenery, but they each viewed them differently. The vulture noticed the rotting flesh and decay because that’s what it was looking for. But the hummingbird ignored the dead animals and instead looked for the colorful blossoms of desert flowers. The vulture thrives on what was and lives off of the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is, they search for new life, and they fill themselves with the freshness of life. Two birds flew over a desert, and they both found what they were looking for. 

We all have the ability to choose what it is that we focus on. Each one of us has the ability to choose our attitude in life. God saved us for a reason, and that is so we would glorify Him with our lives. If we choose an attitude of discontentment or laziness we are failing to fulfill our divinely given purpose. Having the proper attitude helps us mentally, spiritually, and even physically. So what should our attitude look like? 

God wants us to have an attitude of gratitude for letting us be a part of His saving plan (Look throughout the psalms!). Gratitude is choosing to focus on the positive. It is to be grateful for what we have been blessed with and not what we don’t have.

We should have an attitude of excitement in getting to help others find and grow a relationship with God. It is a God-given privilege to be a part of the work of the Kingdom. We are doing what really matters, and we should be excited to be apart of such a great work. 

We should also have patience (Gal. 6:9). Times will get tough. It won’t always be easy to show excitement and gratitude. It’s in the trials and testing that our patience is needed. We must have a patient attitude knowing that God holds the future in His hands (Psa. 31:14-15).

If we have this proper attitude it will help us glorify God through our actions. These actions include important things like bearing fruit for the Father (John 15), fighting as soldiers for Christ (2 Tim. 2:3-4), and running in the Christian race (1 Cor. 9:24-27).  Having the proper attitude will strengthen our dedication to the Lord. We receive salvation from God and in return we must be dedicated laborers and workers in the Kingdom (Col. 3:23; Matt. 5:16). 

Just like those two birds that flew over the same desert, we have been given the ability to choose what we focus on and what our attitude will be in life. Two people can go through the same terrible event and respond in two entirely different ways. God created us with the power of choice. We have the power to choose what our attitude will be. We can either focus on the bad in this world, the hopelessness, the sin and decay. Or we can focus on glorifying God with an attitude that He approves of. 

It Isn’t Hard To Find The Flaws

It Isn’t Hard To Find The Flaws

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Neal Pollard

Take a moment to think about what happens in the course of a typical day. The coffee’s too hot (or not hot enough) or it tastes funny. The car in front of me is going too slow. The internet’s malfunctioning. The waitress has forgotten me. My coworker is lazy or undependable. My spouse did that annoying thing again. I can’t believe my child left that mess or didn’t do the simple thing I asked. My friend was thoughtless. Think about how easy it is to become critical of everything and everyone. Basic to human nature is a tendency to point out what’s wrong with something and that tendency spills into our speech (or posts). 

One subject that seems to find its way into the crosshairs of critics is the church. Increasingly, we are given privy to its weaknesses, problems, shortcomings, mistakes, failures, ineptnesses, inadequacies, ignorances, and derelictions. Virtually any facet of the church seems fair game, but church leadership, mission, purpose, and function are predictable among the topics. It might be a lengthy article or a quick, social media rant. Scroll through a news feed and do your own research. Did you find one (or a few)? Or look through private groups you are a member of. Is it even worse there?

In every aspect of church life, regarding the “human side,” there will always be room for improvement. The church is full of people, and people sin and fall short of God’s glory. One does not have to look too far or too deep to find problems. 

Each of us has work to do to be a better soul-winner, steward, visionary, time manager, encourager, servant, prayer warrior, student, etc. But it would be very cool to see a revival of communication (written and oral) that says, “Do you know what I love and appreciate about the church?” That does not mean we bury our heads, ignoring problems and especially sin. Instead, it’s about challenging ourselves to be balanced. Whatever we look for, we typically find. Let’s just spend more time looking for what’s right and great about the Lord’s Bride. 

Are You A Bread Squeezer?

Are You A Bread Squeezer?

Neal Pollard

Samuel Feldman may hold the distinction as the most famous bread vandal in history.

He did $8,000 worth of damage to bread and cookies throughout the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, area. He was going around “poking, pinching, and squeezing” bags of bread and packages of cookies. Finally, one store, suspecting Feldman, put him under surveillance and caught him three times in the act. He is charged with two counts of criminal mischief. Two years of aggravation and loss, caused by an idle person with a mean streak (from Reuters News Story, 9/23/00).

There is always at least one bread-squeezer in any group. The church may even sometimes harbor a few bread-squeezers, too. These are the sore tails, nitpickers, storm clouds who live to rain on others’ parades, those who seem to enjoy causing friction and irritating others, those who hold petty grudges, and general pot-stirrers. They are the busybodies (2 Th. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5:13). Solomon calls one a worthless and wicked person “who spreads strife” (Pr. 6:14; cf. 19–“who spreads strife among brothers”). Paul laments lovers of controversy because they provoke “envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction” (1 Tim. 6:4-5).

These bread-squeezers flatten a congregation’s moral, squeeze the worst side out of others, and pick and poke at everyone from the church’s leaders to any other Christian whose name passes between their cross-hairs. They taint the productivity, good will, good deeds, attitude, and joy of a congregation. They brighten entire rooms just by making an exit.

Are you a bread-squeezer? How do you reply when asked, “How are you?” How well do you speak of other Christians? Are you moody? Do you lash out at others when you feel you have been wronged? Do you give the cold shoulder? Do you not speak to others, only to complain that others are unfriendly because they didn’t approach you first? Do you wear your feelings on your sleeves? Are you the type that prefers the role of critic, since there are plenty of others to be the “cheerleader”? If so, then you are a bread-squeezer!

A bread-squeezer is as needed in a congregation as Feldman was needed in Bucks County! He was entirely destructive and he caused others to pay for his bad behavior. Barnabas wasn’t a bread-squeezer (Acts 4:36). Neither was Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32). Certainly, Jesus wasn’t! The church is always in need of more encouraging, uplifting, positive, happy, and contented members. Don’t squeeze the bread!

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