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THE DAILY PLANNER

MONDAY COLUMN: “NEAL AT THE CROSS”

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Neal Pollard

It’s the time of year when so many are buying or receiving calendars and planners or using an electronic version of the same. These can be key to organizing our lives, maximizing our time management, and strategizing ways to grow and improve in the future. Good stewardship really demands that you are “making the most of your time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:16).

In this task of planning life each day, please consider planning to do the following each and every day of 2020:

  • Tell someone about what Jesus has done for you every day.
  • Tell God how great He is and grateful you are for Him as you pray every day.
  • Let God speak to You through His Word every day.
  • Tell your spouse, children, and family you love them every day.
  • Show someone the servant heart of Jesus in your deeds every day.
  • Do something that will help you look more like Jesus every day.
  • Help people see the joy and satisfaction of living the Christian life every day.
  • Encourage someone (via card, social media, phone, etc.) every day.
  • Compliment someone every day.
  • Examine yourself every day.
  • Provide an example of leadership to someone every day.
  • Invest in someone every day. 
  • Count your blessings every day.

That’s enough to keep idleness from plaguing us, isn’t it? Consider how helpful this will be, not just on January 1, but also March 19, June 6, September 25, and December 30. This life is about overcoming (1 John 5:4), but perseverance is as much about the daily grind as it is the dramatic and grand. Zig Ziglar wrote that “people often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” How profound! Plan on being a better you and on doing what that requires, day by day. 

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Bear Valley church of Christ church church (nature) church function church growth church organization eldership leaders leadership Uncategorized

“I Praise, I Participate, I Proclaim”

Neal Pollard

Yesterday afternoon, the Bear Valley eldership stood before us one by one to talk about their priorities both for themselves and for us. They distilled them into five simple words that describe five profound concepts: (1) Worship, (2) Communication, (3) Fellowship, (4) Accountability, and (5) Leadership. They told us that as the religious world is growing more homogenous in their worship style (a la community church model; rock concert-ish), distinctive New Testament worship has a chance to stand out even more. Yet, we need to always be improving our efforts in leadership and participation. They emphasized that communicating news, ideas, and needs is a process that will always need work and priority. No church ever arrives in this regard. They spoke of the importance of building a closer church family, knowing each other through age-related opportunities and entire congregation opportunities. This happens when we’re all together, in the classroom, and away from the building. They stressed the importance of holding one another accountable, for faithfulness, commitment, and support. Otherwise, there is no way to move from ideas to action. They told us that all of us exert leadership in some area. There is formalized leadership positions, as outlined in the New Testament (elders, deacons, preachers, teachers). But, inasmuch as we all have a sphere of influence (cf. Mat. 5:14-16), God expects us to lead. Throughout their entire presentation, they were specific about strategies aimed at helping us be successful. I appreciated the great challenge this was for us to work and grow. There were so many quotable sayings from their collective lesson, but the one that struck me most was made near the end. As we have adopted three planks of emphasis as a church, based on Acts 2:42-47 (praise—worship, participation—fellowship, and proclamation—evangelism), we were challenged to think: “I praise,” “I participate,” and “I proclaim.” It can be so easy for us to approve the church’s need to grow and improve in these areas or to expect the elders to do these things. But, no matter who we are, we can and must ask, “What can I do?” The key to being a great church is the willingness of every member to make personal application. It’s not, “What are they doing?,” “what are you doing?,” or even “what are we doing?” No! It must always primarily be, “What am I doing?” I’m thankful that our elders spoke with confidence and clarity about the fact that there is plenty of opportunity to be involved in making Bear Valley a strong, relevant church, a city set on a hill shining a light in spiritual darkness. Thank God for strong leadership, which encourages me to say, “Here am I, send me!” (cf. Isa. 6:8).

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#7

Neal Pollard

Already, we have looked at six reinforcements for our resolutions: (1) Specificity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#1), (2) Prayer (Resolutions Reinforcements–#2), (3) Tenacity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#3), (4) Hope (Resolutions Reinforcements–#4), (5) Self-Control (Resolutions Reinforcements—#5), and (6) Accountability (Resolutions Reinforcements–#6). I’d like to close this series of articles with one last tool of support. To keep our resolutions rolling, may I suggest “reading.”

Especially if you are not a reader, that may sound like drudgery. However, consider the fact that God thought it important enough to have His will and thoughts written down in a book. Certainly, the Bible will help shape, encourage, and assist us in every noble goal. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” How do we know what God considers to fall within these categories? We must read His Word (cf. Psa. 119:105).

Whatever your goals, there are probably plenty of books devoted to the subject (cf. Ecc. 12:12). If you have financial, physical, relational, or spiritual goals, seek out books by those of proven ability in those areas. Perhaps you can ask people who are excelling in the areas where you wish to improve what books they’ve read and would recommend. Some time ago when he still lived at home, my son Dale passed along a book one of our deacons, Scott Phillips, shared with him on finances, entitled Rich Dad, Poor Dad. One of my elders, Dean Murphy, recently recommended The Speed of Trust for effective leadership. Rick Randall, a faithful member here, recommended a faith-building resource called The Truth Project. Just yesterday, Mike Vestal encouraged me to read a book by Gary McIntosh on church growth that was relevant to a goal I have regarding Bear Valley. Connect yourself to readers in your congregation and your circle of friends.

The point is, resolutions are about making improvements. Often, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Usually, you’ll have to spit out some bones. Always, you can mine at least some nugget from a book on a subject of your interest that can help you grow. I encourage you to “study up” on ways to maintain and shore up your resolve. Filter it all through the lens of Scripture. Then, most importantly, don’t be a forgetful hearer but rather a doer (cf. Jas. 1:22).

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resolutions resolve self-control self-denial Uncategorized

Resolutions Reinforcements—#5

Neal Pollard

If this is not one of your resolutions, it is a part of all of them. It is almost a dirty word, if we ponder what it demands. “Self-control.” We call it will power, self-discipline, or restraint, but it invokes those difficult life principles like commitment, duty, and drive. It’s doing a little bit more of what it takes or doing a little less of what you want in order to reach a goal (paying off debt, 10 more minutes in the workout, passing up cake, choosing Bible reading over social media or TV, etc.). The Christian understands that God has called him or her to a life of self-control. In what is really God-control—submitting our hearts and lives to God’s will—we are to live lives that call for self-denial and lead to discipleship. Our resolutions probably take that central truth into consideration.

The word used in the New Testament can seem daunting. The word ἐγκράτεια (enkrateia) means “to exercise complete control over one’s desires and actions” (Louw-Nida 750).  It is daunting because it is exhausting (“exercise”),  exhaustive (“complete”), and extensive (“control over desires and actions”). It leaves no part of me unexplored and unchecked. It takes in the internal and the external.

Yet, it is a mark of the redeemed. You find it in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). You find it in the Christian virtues, which speak of all that is gained or lost depending on whether those things are incorporated into our lives (2 Pet. 1:6). You find it attached to judgment and eternity (Acts 24:25). So, it is something God calls for in our lives anyway.

Pray for self-control. Identify the saboteurs of your self-control and eliminate, avoid, and address them. Be intentional, thinking specifically about the area where self-control is lacking (tongue, temper, tastebuds, etc.) and considering ways to improve there. Acknowledge times when you have succeeded or are succeeding and appreciate how good that feels.

What follows the exercise of self-control is almost always tangible results. Be patient. If you stumble, get back up and keep trying. At the end of that road is success!

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#4

Neal Pollard

Well, it has been nearly a week. Can you remember what your resolutions were? The holidays are over and you’re back in your routine. Life happens and it can eclipse our view of the better self we intended to be. Hopefully, this can be a reminder to regroup and maybe rededicate yourself to those well-thought-out resolutions. One thing that can help is “hope.”

Hope in the Bible is “the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment” (BDAG 319).  Now, with resolutions, we can have a hope that the goals we’ve established can be reached. But in harmony with an earlier reinforcement, we can have a hope grounded in God’s ability to strengthen us and providentially provide for every legitimate goal we have. If our resolutions will make us better Christians and servants in the kingdom, there’s great reason to have hope.

Make sure your goals are reasonable. Otherwise, you cannot have much hope of achieving them. If you have $100,000 in debt and your goal is to be debt-free next month, you won’t have hope to help you. Have intermediate goals that will get you from where you are now toward where you want to be.

You read about hope not only in both Testaments, but in all the different time periods of Bible history. Job longed for it during the early days of earth (Job 7:6). So did Naomi in the period of the Judges (Ruth 1:13). David spoke of it (1 Chronicles 29:15). Hundreds of years later, near the end of recorded Old Testament history, Ezra (10:2) and Esther (9:1) did, too. It features prominently in Israel’s song book (cf. Psa. 42:11). The New Testament frequently talks about it–some 73 times! It is a central driver in people’s lives.  Lean on it to keep you on track and moving toward your goals. Don’t lose hope!

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#2

Neal Pollard

No matter what your goals and objectives are for 2018, the place to begin, work, and end is with God. I have heard it said, “How can we hope to do God’s work without God’s help?” Your resolutions may be seemingly insignificant or potentially life-changing. Regardless, He is “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20). Do you believe that? Assuming your goals and legitimate and Christ-honoring, doesn’t He care enough about you to help you succeed? Scripture devotes much time to the truth that He is a perfect Heavenly Father who loves His children (Mat. 5:45,48).

Pray specifically and include those resolutions in your daily prayers. Pray in faith, believing that God is able to help you succeed. Know through this that He is in control.  Pray submissively, understanding that God knows what is best for your life. You may believe that achieving some goal will be what you need, but God knows best. Trust Him to provide. Pray unselfishly. While goals may be very personal, they should be made with others and especially God’s will at the forefront. What we seek should be sought for His glory. Pray expectantly, believing that He will help and through Him you can do.

The Bible frequently shows us those who prayed to God through improbable and even seemingly impossible situations, and God provided. Think of Hannah, David, Hezekiah, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Paul.  As you square up to face your resolutions, do so by looking–as much as you can–through those Heavenly Eyes. Remember: “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jer. 32:17).

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#1

Neal Pollard

Did you make any resolutions for 2018? Dan Diamond cited a statistic I’ve often found, that over 40% of Americans make them every year and only about 8% succeed (Forbes, 1/1/13). Websites like statisticsbrain.com break it down into all kind of categories, but they amount to body and soul, material and spiritual. If you are among those who have made resolutions for this year, you probably find yours also fitting into those two categories–weight loss, financial health, relationships, and spiritual growth, for example. With the statistical odds against us, we’re going to need help, right? I thought I’d devote some attention to things we can do to reach our goals. It certainly will raise my own accountability, and hopefully it can provide some practical encouragement for you, too.

The first resolutions reinforcement I suggest is “specificity.” Instead of saying, “I will be a better person,” “I will read my Bible more,” “I will get out of debt,” or “I will eat healthier,” take some time to articulate some specific goals. These general ambitions are great, but the more nebulous they are the harder they are to quantify and track. For example, one of my goals is to lose 20 pounds. While I’ve lost those 20 pounds several times through the years, I realize it’s not good for my health for me to carry them around again. With that specific goal, I have a plan. It works whenever I utilize it. It is neither complex or gimmicky. I will count calories (I have an app that helps me track that).

I have taken some time to do that with five specific goals for my year. I wrote each of them down, stated specifically. Each is measurable. My aim is to pull that little list out at least daily and see where I am with each. There are some sensitive, uncomfortable items on that list, but when I revisit it those are the ones I want to achieve the most. That piece of paper allows no justification, excuse-making, or equivocation. It just stares right back at me, ironclad if only in ink.

May I encourage you to pray about this. Here is my prayer for today regarding my goals: “Father, please help me to take specific steps today, tomorrow, and every day to reach these goals. Help me to achieve them so that I can better serve and glorify you.” Here is a reminder of something God has said to us: “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3). 

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The Ambition Of A Burmese Python In The Everglades

Neal Pollard

No, I have not gone geographically goofy!

It’ll take more than a sack lunch to go from Florida to southern Asia, but because some pet owners have deposited their no-longer-wanted pythons into the Everglade Swamp there have arisen some interesting ecological dilemmas. The most spectacular one I have seen had pictorial documentation to prove itself. There, in the black and white of the newspaper, was a Burmese python that had burst in its attempt to swallow…an alligator!

What about you? Do you have big goals and dreams? Where do you see yourself this time next year? By retirement time? In eternity? What tangible things are you “biting off” to make those goals reality? Do you have soul-winning and other spiritual goals? Would you like to be a “lighthouse Christian” whose example motivates many to be like Jesus?

How big are you thinking? How big can you think?

Remember that Paul included Christ in the equation (Phil. 4:13), so he was ready to take on the biggest challenges. He evangelized the then-known world (Col. 1:23). He stood before the leaders of the greatest nation on earth, men like Festus, Felix, Agrippa, and ultimately Caesar, and he preached Jesus to them (Acts 24-28; Phil. 4:22; Luke 21:12). He traveled perilous seas, enduring multiple harsh treatment (see 2 Cor. 11), and credible history says he was beheaded for his Lord. Paul, through God’s strength, felt he could change the world with Christ’s saving grace. Even though his wonderful ambition put him in the same ultimate position of that dislocated constrictor, what a memorable way to go. Unlike the snake’s, Paul’s efforts yielded everlasting benefits.

What are you ready to do for Christ? How far are you willing to go? What have you done to get started?

Maybe we shouldn’t apply the cliche, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” to Christian aspirations. In fact, chomp away!

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Wanting To Want To

 

Neal Pollard

Do you want your marriage to flourish and grow?
Do you want to read through the Bible this year?
Do you want to lead someone the Savior to know?
Do you want to live life without worry and fear?
Do you want to lose weight and be healthy and fit?
Do you want to attain to more financial discipline?
Do you want self-confidence, courage, and grit?
Do you want to get better at caring and listening?
Do you want a closer place near the heart of God?
Do you want to trust Him when trouble finds you?
Do you want to have heaven after earth you’ve trod?
Then it all must begin with you wanting to want to! —NP

Call it desire, motivation, or willpower.  Whatever you call it, it is central to succeeding at whatever your goals are. What does it take to become a Christian? Wanting to! What does it take to defeat the sin in your life? Wanting to! What does it take to break bad habits and repeated blown judgment calls? Wanting to! What does it take to be a stronger, more faithful Christian? Wanting to! That is not to minimize or ignore our dependence on God and the strength He provides. But He is not going to overwhelm or overtake our will and make us do or be something. He did not operate that way in the age of miracles.

What will be your motivation? There are so many potential incentives. There’s the love God has shown us (2 Cor. 5:14). There’s the fear of hell (Mat. 10:28). There’s the yearning for heaven (John 14:1-3). There’s the concern about how we influence other’s destiny (Mat. 5:14-16). There’s the love we have for God (1 Jn. 4:19). There’s the longing to be like Jesus (1 Jn. 3:2). For each of us, some motivations are more powerful than others. Whatever it takes to be more for God in this needy world, latch onto it and pursue it. You can do it because you won’t be doing it alone. God gave you the church, His Word, prayer, and a personal will to help arrive at the ultimate goal. Don’t let up. Don’t look back. Don’t lose hope. Want to want to!

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4 people have motivated me to run over the past 19 years: Kathy, Joe, Bob, and Wes. Today was a 6 miler in the snow when it felt like 4 degrees.