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. 

Walking with God In a Fallen World

Walking with God In a Fallen World

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

God’s desire from the very beginning of creation was to walk with man. Scripture tells us that He would walk in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8). This was all undone when sin entered the world and created a chasm between God and mankind.
The theme of the Bible is the salvation of man, through Christ, to the glory of God. From the moment sin entered the world, God has been proactive in seeking a relationship with His creation. Through the perfect sacrifice of Christ, that relationship has been restored, and we are once again able to walk with God.
Even though we have peace with God again, at times it feels like we don’t have peace in our everyday lives. We turn on the news and watch as courthouses are set on fire, and a widespread virus continues to harm and kill people that we love. Yes, we have peace with God, but where is the peace in our own lives?
These are questions that most everyone has asked. But there’s one question I want us to focus on for a few moments; how does God want us to react to the events that are going on today? Let’s examine three encouraging verses that tell us how we are to conduct ourselves each day.
Proverbs 15:3. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” God sees the violence, the grieving families, the struggling Christian. But God also sees how His children respond. God is in every part of His creation, at every moment in time. We may feel like He doesn’t see, or that He is indifferent to what’s going on, but His eyes are on the evil and the good. We respond in love because we know that God is watching.
Psalm 23:4. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” God not only sees what is going on, but He is with His children. The greatest of Christians still struggle with feelings of loneliness (Elijah in 1 Kings 19). Even though we walk through the shadow of death, we don’t fear the evil that we encounter because God has promised that He will be with us. We may see the hate, the hurt and the helplessness of mankind, but the comfort of God gives hope to His people.
Matthew 28:20. “…And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is a promise first given by Jesus to His apostles, a promise that we as Christians sometimes fail to remember. The world isn’t perfect because sin has corrupted what God has made perfect. People will do you wrong, they’ll hurt you, and they’ll do whatever they feel like doing. We have a command to fulfill, and it can only be carried out with the presence of God.
Showing love to a world that’s full of hatred can seem impossible at times, but if we will remember who we are and Whose we are, we can and will get it done. Remember that God loves you, and the church loves you. Let’s be an example to those who are without this love.
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The Eternal Optimist

The Eternal Optimist

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

Wiley Miller is the creator of the comic strip, Non Sequitur. When apolitical, Miller’s strip can be enjoyable. I cut one of his strips from a daily edition of The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, NC) back in the early aughts featuring “the eternal optimist.” In the one-panel comic, the grim reaper stands before a man in business attire. This eternal optimist calls to his wife in another room: “Well, honey, it doesn’t look like I have to worry about that long commute anymore.” I kept that strip until it yellowed with age and crumbled into oblivion. I did so for another reason than having a dark sense of humor. I hope I am an optimist on the order of the businessman finding something good to say even in the face of death.

Paul had such a character. He told the Philippians that he had everything to gain in death, as a Christian, and needed only remain for the sake of the brethren (Philippians 1.21-26). Nearing the end of his life, a confident Paul told Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4.7-8 NASB). Why was Paul an eternal optimist? It was not because he was free of sin. Indeed, Paul considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1.15). However, Paul was full of faith and understood God’s grace.

We cannot afford to live in fear, whether that fear is of death or whether we are “good enough.” We must do the will of God. John says, “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1.7 NASB). That faith may not always take us to places providing comfort. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had their faith put to the test. Nebuchadnezzar had instructed everyone to bow to his golden image in worship. The young Hebrews refused because they remembered the Law of Moses and their covenant relationship with God. Nebuchadnezzar was angry with the young men and told them they would perish in a fiery furnace. They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3.16b-18 NASB).

Did you notice why they did not fear? Can you see why they were optimistic? They understood their God was more powerful than a king and could deliver them. Yet, even if God did not deliver them, they still realized they had an obligation to serve Him regardless. These days the world seems scary. There is so much bad news on TV. But our God is more powerful. Thus, we can even say, “If I do catch COVID-19, God will deliver me. But even if He does not, I know Heaven will be my home.” Other scenarios would likewise suffice as an example. However, this is one of the things that seems to be on the minds of many today. Build your faith and become an eternal optimist as well. The world, in turn, will become a less daunting place.

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A different Non Sequitur sampling

Some Exciting Gifts From God   

Some Exciting Gifts From God   

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

There’s a magic moment when a child discovers that two different paint colors combined can create an entirely different color. The possibilities seem endless! Red and yellow paints are dumped on a blank canvas and mixed to create a bright orange. That same excitement, on a whole new level, can be experienced when we discover that God mixed with “human nature” creates something far better and more beautiful. God is often the ingredient missing from our potential success as well as those goals we sometimes attempt to make alone. Consider the impact He has on our common life struggles…

1. When God is mixed with our sin – He creates forgiveness (Romans 4:7)

2. When God is mixed with our finances – He creates a healthy view of money and how to use it (Proverbs 13:11)

3. When God is mixed with our relationships – He creates a stronger and more      fulfilling bond (Eph. 4:2-3)

4. When you mix God with uncertainty – He creates certainty (Romans 8:28)

5. When you include God in difficult decisions – you find direction (Prov. 3:5-6)

6. When you mix God with depression/anxiety – you discover some relief (1 Peter 5:6-7)

7. When you include God in your work – you will get the best results (1 Cor. 2:9)

8. Add God to any fear – you not only get courage, but a total removal of fear (1  John 4:18)

In short, the more yellow you add to red, the brighter the orange. The more God you add to your life, the brighter the future becomes. If you desire a vibrant life, then God is what needs to saturate your mind, heart, and decisions.

When God is in my mind my mind becomes more holy.

When God finds His way into my heart, my heart develops more purity.

No meaningful and lasting change can be accomplished by sheer willpower and determination— if those two things are not mixed with an all-powerful God.

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How To Make The Best Of A Bad Situation 

How To Make The Best Of A Bad Situation 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Rattlesnakes are large, venomous snakes that live throughout North and South America. In my humble opinion, they are one of the most terrifying creatures on the planet–from the hair-raising sound of that rattle to those intimidating fangs that can be up to six inches long. The bite from one of these monsters is excruciatingly painful. If you were to be bitten, at first you would experience a tingling feeling, followed by an intense burning sensation. After this you would feel lightheaded and begin sweating profusely. Your vision would become blurry, and each breath would be more strained than the last one.

If left untreated, it can be fatal to humans. All of that sounds terrible doesn’t it? What good could possibly come from a deadly rattlesnake? Well, at some point in history, somebody looked at these snakes and decided that they would make a beautiful pair of boots. That’s how to make something great, out of something terrible. There is no doubt in my mind that the inventor of snakeskin boots was an optimist. He could see the good, even when staring into the dark vertical pupils of pure reptilian evil.

When faced with hardship, that simply comes from living in a fallen world, it can be a challenge to see the silver lining in each dark cloud. American basketball player, Charles Barkley once said, “Sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.” That’s definitely how it can feel sometimes! Although we have books in the Bible like Job and James that teach us how we should view our earthly struggles, here are just a few reminders from our God.

Number one, remember that each day is worth rejoicing over. Psalm 118:24 gives us the reason why— because today is another day that the Lord has made. It’s not my day; it’s God’s day. Reminder number two, what we can’t see in times of difficulty, is worth waiting for. Paul would inform us in Romans 8:27, “But if we hope in what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience.” In the muck of life it may feel at times that there’s just no way out. Just because you may not see the end in sight, rest assured that our hope is in a promise that was put in place before time itself began (2 Timothy 1:9). The last reminder is simply this, that God made the world you are living in and Jesus is currently creating the world we will one day live in (John 14:1-3). I firmly believe each day that passes can only mean that heaven will be that much more beautiful. If God created this world in six days, in all it’s beauty, imagine the splendor of our home to come. Now, if that doesn’t make a bad situation a good one, I don’t know what will! Here are the lyrics to an optimistic hymn that I hope get stuck in your head for quite a while.

“I care not today what tomorrow may bring, if shadow or sunshine or rain. The Lord I know ruleth o’er everything, and all of my worry is vain. Living by faith in Jesus above, trusting confiding in His great love. From all harm safe in His sheltering arm, I’m living by faith and feel no alarm.”

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One of two pair of rattlesnake skin boots I own.

My Hope For Youth

My Hope For Youth

Neal Pollard
This week has reaffirmed a fundamental view I have about youth. It has been affirmed by what I see in  our youth group, but it is bolstered by what I have seen in so many young people this week. Hearing youthful voices singing whenever they found an opportunity, I thought about how hopeful I felt for the church’s future as these beautiful voices blended in heartfelt song. Our world is growing more vile and wicked each day, but I have bathed in a spiritual oasis this week. It led me to think about how much hope we rest on the future of the church, but how much we should.
My hope for our youth is that they will develop their own faith. Some of those youth I speak of were converted, but many more are the product of Christian homes and heritages that go back for generations. Apathy and indifference can infect our youth who go through motions they have been taught but which have not been internalized. As one in that latter category myself, I found that a challenge I faced as a youth. I want our youth to grow a conviction and belief system founded upon the rock solid nature of God and His Word.
My hope for our youth is that they will maintain their purity. The aforementioned world is bombarding all of us with insidious messages. On every hand, the devil tempts us to let go of holiness. With so many ways to “get in,” I pray our youth will lock the door of their heart when evil is on the stoop.
My hope for our youth is that they will have proper examples in us. How heavily this point hits home! So much of what we hope for our youth begins, continues and ends with our impact upon them. They will be, in large part, the product of our training, what we emphasize, value and show to be important, and what our passions and priorities are. They will have great difficulty rising above what we model before them!
I certainly hope so much more for them, but in all of this my hope is that whatever peril or persecution they must face in the years to come they will be faithful even to the point of physical death. But I believe in them! They have showed me so much now, and faith is built before the storms of life come.

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2017 edition of the Denver Future Preachers Training Camp in a more serious moment

Learning About Worship From Children

Learning About Worship From Children

Neal Pollard

Thom Vaught gave the “elders remarks” last night after the Young Lions participated in their annual program of Scripture reading, song leading, prayer, and preaching. The fourteen first through six graders obviously listened well and learned much. Thom noted how we look at the Christian life as a marathon, but these boys (and the seventeen God’s Precious Daughters who hosted a tea in the fellowship hall at 4:00 PM yesterday afternoon for 80 Christian women!) were actually the next leg in a relay race.  Everybody seemed to leave the assembly last night so spiritually full and energized. Perhaps that was because of what we had seen (and learned) throughout last evening’s service.

…That genuine enthusiasm is infectious.
…That worship should be characterized by purity.
…That you cannot easily fake sincerity.
…That sometimes truth gets told most poignantly and effectively from such an innocent heart.
…That it is encouraging to see someone overcome their fears to lead.
…That we appreciate seeing those who lead us unashamedly show us their hearts.
…That worship should be joyful.
…That we should carry the experience of worship out the door with us into our lives.

When Thom asked those present last night who had formerly been through Young Lions and God’s Precious Daughters to stand along with the 31 children involved this year, it was overwhelmingly encouraging to see so many scattered among our healthy crowd last night who had received this wonderful training. The leadership training they have received through the years has contributed to the teenagers and young adults they have become, serving Christ and others. Some of them are married now. Others have graduated from preacher training schools or are students there. Others have gone on to Christian Colleges. They lead us in every phase of our worship regularly and effectively. We appreciate the men and women who came up with this program and all those who have served through the years. All of us are the better for it. Last night was a reminder of something Trent Woolley, who helped lead this year’s program, said to us, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mat. 18:3).  I pray we will carry these lessons learned into worship with us next week and the weeks beyond that!

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WHY TODAY IS AN EXCITING DAY (poem)

WHY TODAY IS AN EXCITING DAY (poem)

 

Neal Pollard

From sea to sea, He is the same
No man can change His essence
From year to year, His eternal flame
Show His power and effervescence.

Whoever sits upon a throne
Or reigns a group or nation
We must that One make fully known
Through tireless proclamation

For all mankind must know that One
Who is changeless and transcendent
They must to Him yield before life’s done
And acknowledge on Him they’re dependent

Fickle, transient trends and times
Can’t blind us on this matter
The church’s mission in fair or foul climes
Is to take the Kingdom seed and it scatter.

And, so, we shall live and by such find peace
No matter the climate of our homeland
Leaning on God, who doesn’t change or cease
The trustworthy Rock upon which we stand!

Sunrise, Kauai

That’s The Church For You!

That’s The Church For You!

Neal Pollard

  • Where you can build relationships with some of finest, most enjoyable people on earth.
  • Where the world gets smaller and mutual connections are usually a conversation away.
  • Where God’s Word is honored and imperfect people try to follow it.
  • Where Christ is at the heart of every idea, program, and plan, but also every class period and worship assembly.
  • Where you connect with people throughout the week, from thoughts and prayers to cards, calls, messages, and visits.
  • Where hope is always vibrant whatever in the world is happening, where joy is always possible however gloomy the forecast.
  • Where there’s always room for more members to be added to the family.
  • Where young and old, rich and poor, educated and uneducated blend together in a harmony that cannot be found anywhere else on earth.
  • Where we literally get a foretaste of glory divine.
  • Where you feel a part of something so truly profound in purpose and exciting in destiny that sometimes you have to pinch yourself to make sure it’s real. And it is.
  • Where you have clarity and grounding in the midst of chaos and confusion.
  • Where you have heritage and history, but just as much hope and hankering.
  • Where truth is honored, and the way, though difficult, is clear.

A couple of closing caveats. No, I do not think the church, from the human side, is perfect. We have our foibles, fragility, and faults, but our foundation is flawless. No, the church is not a place, it is a people. “Where” indicates that the church, as a body, is a place where I can fit, belong, and function. No, this is not a Pollyanna-like, rose-colored glasses view of the church that glosses over or is ignorant of times when God’s people do not behave like they ought. But, when too often the diatribe is “what’s wrong with the church” and the mantra is, with negative and sarcastic spin, “that’s the church for you,” maybe it’s time we take a moment to count some of the blessings and perks of membership in the institution bought with the life and blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28). Obviously, there are other items to be added to the list. Feel free to do so! Generously.

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At the end of morning worship at the Katy, TX, church of Christ, 4/10/16.

THE PRISON OF “NOT”

THE PRISON OF “NOT”

Neal Pollard

Strayer University shared their video from the day they ran an ingenious experiment in New York City.  They put up a chalkboard on a busy street with this caption written at the top: “Write Your Biggest Regret.”  Scores of people wrote on the chalkboard.  Nearly every answer visible in the video included the word “not.” Interestingly, it was not confessions of sins of commission. Instead, it was about opportunities missed, dreams not pursued, and things they failed to do.

That exercise made me wonder how many are inmates in the prison of “not.”  While Strayer seemed more interested in highlighting regrets that were tied to career, that impacted quality of physical life, and the like, regret reigns in people’s hearts and has dominion over their spiritual and eternal lives, too.  Scripture shows us those challenged with the gospel message who ultimately refused to follow Christ. The rich young ruler was not willing to choose Christ over his stuff (Mat. 19:22). Many of the rulers believed in Him, but they put their stock in the approval of men rather than God (John 12:42-43). Felix trembled at truth, but ultimately turned away (Acts 24:25). His cohort, Agrippa, was nearly there but not quite (Acts 26:28).  Other examples can be found of those who came so far but would go no further.

How many people have been shown the way to eternal life and have acknowledged, to a point, that it is the way they should go? Yet, when push comes to shove, they refuse to leave the cell of self and confine themselves to the chains of a condemning choice. Before Christ, they will see their regrets realized in a rejection that cannot be remedied.

The incredible news is that they keys are in reach of this prison.  It was a running gag in the Andy Griffith show that particularly Barney would leave the keys on the peg of the Mayberry jail where the prisoners could reach the keys and let themselves out. Would you picture our spiritual circumstances this way? The Psalmist praises God for many reasons, including the fact that “the Lord sets the prisoners free” (146:7). In a Messianic passage, Isaiah writes of His mission to “proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners” (61:1; cf. Luke 4:18; 7:22; Mat. 11:5). He can emancipate lifelong slaves to sin (Heb. 2:15). He has left the keys where we can grab them, but we must want to be free and choose to be free.

This video ends with the participants taking an eraser and removing all the regrets from the board. One of them writes just two words in their place: “Clean slate.”  What an optimistic, hopeful, empowering difference that contrasting concept is. Regret can be replaced with resolve. Do you believe that is possible for your spiritual life? Don’t you think God wants you to experience that exhilarating hope? The proof is there at Golgotha and the sepulcher that could not keep His Son entombed. What He did there can provide you with a clean slate! Take possession of the freedom He came to give you!

Strayer video link: http://aplus.com/s/83d4dc91dee

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