The Wandering Albatross

The Wandering Albatross

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Did you know? 

  1. The wandering Albatross is the biggest flying creature on earth today. 
  2. It’s lifespan can be over 60 years. 
  3. They can go years without ever touching the ground. 

Did you know? 

Many people today haven’t decided that God is the answer to the void we have in our lives. For this reason, James will give us the following instructions to help us in our prayer lives. 

He writes, 

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1.6 

God wants His children to trust Him, and He is ready to reward the evidence of our trust in Him. 

The Evidence 

We show God our faith in Him in two major ways based on this verse and its original context. 

  1. God’s where we go when we need wisdom (verse 5). 
  2. We’ve decided and are convinced that God is the answer by praying to Him without doubting His ability to aid us. 

Unlike the albatross that wanders for years without touching the ground, we’re not commanded to drift through the air without landing. We’re expected seek out the truth, land, and stay there. 

Maybe you’ve wandered off and you’re starting to see the signs. Signs like constant panic, unrest, anxiety, and feeling a loss of control. These can all point to a spiritual problem that you’re no longer grounded.

 God is always the answer and we can prove to Him that we believe this truth by letting Him take the lead. 

via Pixabay
1 Peter–Part VII

1 Peter–Part VII

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today. 

This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary. 

I Peter – Part VII

While we’re on this topic, wives must listen to their own husbands. If your husband doesn’t believe, maybe you’ll win him over with just your good example! You wouldn’t even have to say anything. Pure and respectful behavior speaks volumes. Don’t obsess over your physical appearance or fashion. Show off who you are inside! A gentle, easy-going demeanor is timeless; it’s also extremely valuable to God. Remember the women lived a long time ago? They were considered special because God was their hope, just like he’s your hope. They also expressed their beauty by deferring to their husbands. Sarah did that for Abraham – she considered him to be her leader. You are just like her when you do the right thing without being afraid of anything. 

Husbands, you’re not off the hook. You share a living space with your wife, so you have to be a student of her needs and wants. Don’t treat her like one of the guys. Remember the differences between men and women. Don’t be rough with her. Make sure you show her how valuable she is! She has just as much a claim to God’s promise as you do. If you aren’t good to her, God will block your prayers. 

Finally, you all need to work together. Show sympathy to each other. Be kind to each other. Don’t think too highly of yourselves. Don’t insult people who insult you. Don’t get even with people who hurt you. Do something good for them instead! That’s actually why God called us, and he wants to do good for us, too. You’ve read, “Anyone who wants to live a good life should watch their mouth. They should avoid evil and do good things. They should look for peace and chase it. God watches out for good people and listens to their prayers, but he’s against people who practice evil.” 

Who’s going to hurt you if you’re obsessed with being good to people? Even if someone hurts you because of your faith, you’re ok! Don’t be afraid of their threats, don’t let it shake you up. Put Jesus in the center of your heart at all times. Have a logical answer ready whenever you’re interrogated for your faith. Tell them about your hope, but make sure you’re gentle and respectful. Make sure your moral lives are good so they can’t legitimately attack your character. If you’re doing the right thing, they’ll answer for how they treat you. It’s better to be attacked for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing. 

By 3rd century monk – Link
Patience!

Patience!

Friday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Steve Candela

How many of you have ever sat at a red light in traffic only to realize when that light turns green there’s still no place to go… and then before you get through the intersection the light turns red again. Frustration at its finest.

Who has ever been seated to eat somewhere and it takes over 15 minutes for a waiter or waitress just to come take your drink order? I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it!

I can’t be the only one who has ever lost my cool with my kids or other family members. Sometimes what seems to be for no apparent reason at all? Hopefully you’ve taken the time to at least realize you reacted poorly and made your apologies.

I’d like to share with you my struggle with being a patient man. How I always need to consciously work on it, what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and maybe open your eyes to the reality of what true Christian patience looks like.

My wife, Rebecca, always tells me, “Don’t ever ask God for patience, or else He’ll give you something to be patient about.” I can see that. To a certain point, I believe it too. But let’s take a second look at it in James 1:2-8.

“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So let’s look at this. I have faith. My faith can be tested.

This doesn’t mean I’ve lost faith, just that I’m being tested for how strong my faith is.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – Here I see my struggle with patience as the wisdom aspect. Maybe I’m not feeling wise. Maybe I’m having trouble figuring out this patience thing you all speak of. Is it wrong of me to at least let God know, hey I’m struggling with this… No! Absolutely not. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Let me be clear, I’m not disagreeing with my wife. I would never do that honey… I’m simply saying that asking God for patience and asking God for grace and understanding while I figure out what I need to change in my life to be more patient, are two completely different things. Verse 6 says,

“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

So we have some ground rules here. James tells us, “you must ask in faith. You cannot doubt God. For if you have any doubt, any doubt at all you can expect to receive nothing.”

Maybe my best course of action does not stem from asking God for help. What I have done and learned to do lately is called connecting the dots. If I am unhappy, frustrated and struggling to find joy at home, I ask myself why? Where did that come from? There doesn’t seem to be anything that my family is doing wrong. Sure, dishes pile up in the sink,kids room is not picked up, laundry room is overflowing… Those things happen, they’ve happened before and it didn’t bother me that much in the past. Maybe all those little things just seem like big things now because something else is bothering me, but what? What’s changed? Connecting the dots for me almost always leads back to work. A bad run I’ve been on, problems with co-workers, added duties and responsibilities to an already stressful job. I have had to learn to be more aware of my stressors. I’ve had to do a hard reset on what I bring home vs what I leave at work. Most of all I’ve had to remember to lean on Jesus.

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my Yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).

Learn to lean on Jesus. Learn to do it early. Learn to do it often. I urge you to join a private Bible study. Find an elder, find a deacon, or find a friend and ask them to study the Bible with you. Studying the word of God is the biggest stress reliever I have ever found. I am so grateful for those that have taken the time to study with me.

If you are not a Christian, you have a choice. Don’t wait. Learning to be a disciple takes time. But making the decision to desire discipleship takes no time at all. Be baptized into Christ Jesus and rest easy knowing your soul is in safe hands.

If you are a Christian, perhaps you’ve let your anxiety, stress or impatience get in the way of being a solid Christian, a rock star husband or wife, a nurturing mother or father, or a fierce friend. We are here to help you, guide you or pray for you. Do not be weary, whatever you may need.

The Glue Of Guilt

The Glue Of Guilt

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Samuel is nearing the end of his life by the time you read 1 Samuel 12. He gives a speech to all of Israel and there are several chilling statements that force us to consider our own spiritual standing. Samuel seeks the counsel of the Lord and asks Him on behalf of the people for an earthly king. God had established the Judges to rule them rather than a king which was typical for the time period. God grants their request, even though this kind of leadership was bound for failure. He handed Israel their shovel, and they began to dig. Here are some of Samuel’s final words. 

“Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish” (18-25).

Here are five quick observations and practical truths based on Samuel’s speech. 

  1. We should never let our previous sins hold us back from pressing forward. Samuel tells the children of Israel not to let the evil in their recent past keep them down— but he doesn’t pretend as if they hadn’t sinned against God. 
  2. Samuel reminds the people that God is quick to forgive. 
  3. It’s interesting that Samuel says that his failure to pray for God’s people would be a sinful thing for him to do. 
  4. Samuel tells the people to fear the Lord AND remember what He’s done for them. God could have wiped them out. He clearly had the ability as he demonstrated His power over nature in the beginning of this section. 
  5. It was true for the children of Israel and it’s true for us today. If we persist in doing evil, we will perish. 

The Old Testament is filled with relevant applications for us today. Let’s learn from the past, and like Samuel said— let’s not let our past failures keep us from moving forward. 

Twenty Seconds

Twenty Seconds

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

Twenty seconds seems like a short time, yet it is sufficient to kill viruses and microbes from your hands with thorough handwashing. Thus, when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began, we were inundated with public service announcements that asked us to wash our hands to stop the spread. Again, it seems like a small step to achieve a beneficial result, but it is effective. 

Twenty seconds is also the time required to receive health benefits from a hug. For example, a study conducted in 2003 found that twenty seconds spent in a warm embrace increased oxytocin levels and decreased cortisol levels. 1, 2 Oxytocin is also known as the “love drug,” “love hormone,” and “cuddle hormone.” 3 Believe it or not, the primary function of oxytocin is to facilitate childbirth by causing uterine contractions. However, within adults, especially for a couple, it increases feelings of attachment.  

As a cautionary note, we might cite this to instruct our youth to limit their physical contact with their dates before marriage since the creation of oxytocin can blur the lines between true, agape love and eros love. As oxytocin is considered a “feel-good hormone,” parents should guide their offspring to create it instead through singing with a group and exercise.Otherwise, like with any drug, one might seek it out just for the pleasant feelings it brings without considering the complications.  

But what of our spiritual lives? What can twenty seconds do to help that? I did an experiment using the Lord’s model prayer to find out. First, using the NaturalReader Dotcom website, I copied and pasted the text from Matthew 6.9-13 from different Bible translations. Next, I selected a variety of A.I. voices offered by the website, both American and British. Then, I used a stopwatch to see how long it took for the computer-generated voice to read the text. You might be surprised to learn that the model prayer only took 21 to 28 seconds to read. However, when I removed the final sentence that some academics say is missing from the various manuscripts consulted to create modern English translations, the reading time was between 18 and 20 seconds.  

Paul tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Unfortunately, our prayer lives may suffer because we think we must dedicate a lot of time to pray and thus cannot find time for it within our busy schedules. Yet Jesus shows us that we can say a prayer encompassing most of our needs with about twenty seconds! What often “pads out” our prayers are the needed expressions of thanksgiving and the petitions we lift on behalf of others. But when confronted by temptation or needing to check our temper, twenty seconds of prayer might make the crucial difference.  

Consider this a friendly public service announcement for Christians. It only takes twenty seconds to clean your heart and deepen your love for God.   

Sources Cited 

1  Alloway, Tracy. “What 20 Seconds of Hugging Can Do for You.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 19 Jan. 2022,www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/keep-it-in-mind/202201/what-20-seconds-hugging-can-do-you.  

2   Grewen, Karen M, et al. “Warm partner contact is related to lower cardiovascular reactivity.” Behavioral medicine (Washington, D.C.) vol. 29,3 (2003): 123-30. doi:10.1080/08964280309596065 

3  Watson, Stephanie. “Oxytocin: The Love Hormone.” Harvard Health, The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 20 July 2021,www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/oxytocin-the-love-hormone

4  Ibid. 

“How Do I Love Thee?”

“How Do I Love Thee?”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

The English Romantic poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is famed for her Sonnet 43. It is also known by its first line: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” She was reared with privilege, wealth, and the finest education, but her health was compromised by an equestrian accident. Her father was controlling, and when she eloped to marry Robert Browning she was disinherited. She published many works of various types throughout her life, and this allowed her to become independently wealthy though her health made her an invalid. Robert became enamored with her writing, and they corresponded for two years. During this time, she wrote fervently romantic poems showing her love for Robert. For all that she wrote in her relatively brief life, her poetry stands out most of all. Of her poems, Sonnet 43 may be most famous.

The title above Psalm 92 reads, “a song for the Sabbath day.” That connects its words to worship, and this psalm shows the writer’s deep adoration for God. He never uses the word “love,” but his affection for God is obvious. It seems that the writer gives several proofs of that love here. Notice how.

  1. HE GIVES THANKS TO THE LORD (1)
  2. HE SINGS PRAISES TO HIS NAME (1,3-4)
  3. HE DECLARES HIS LOVINGKINDNESS AND FAITHFULNESS (2)
  4. HE PRAISES GOD’S WORKS AND THOUGHTS (5,8)
  5. HE SCORNS THE WICKED WHO OPPOSE GOD’S WAY (6-7,9,11)
  6. HE APPRECIATES THE BLESSINGS OF A GOD-APPROVED LIFE (10,12-14)
  7. HE EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN THE CHARACTER OF GOD (15)

One of the most rewarding exercises you can engage in is to enumerate the ways you love and appreciate God. Do it in your prayer life; spend time praising God and be specific in expressing your adoration and admiration. Think deeply about it. Look around. Look into your life. Consider what looks like His providence in your life and the life of others. Count your blessings, and tell God what you are thankful for. Wait! Did you mention running water, hot water, reliable vehicles, paved roads, coffee, air-conditioning, music, puppies, baby’s breath, eyesight, and brisket? What about the church, salvation, prayer, the Bible, peace, the hope of heaven, His guidance and protection, the elders, deacons, Bible teachers, your spouse, your parents, and your children? 

This will build your love and appreciation for God. It will remind you of how much He loves you and cause you to love Him more. It will humble you and help you focus on the fount of your every blessing! It should make you a better, more obedient servant for Him. How do you love Him? Like this psalmist, count the ways! It will lift your spirit and open your eyes to a harvest ripe with those who need what you have. Get counting!

“Dear church…”

“Dear church…”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

When I was in elementary school, we had a teacher who taught us how to properly write a letter. Miss Crews, my fourth grade teacher, told us it included the heading, greeting, body, complimentary closing, and signature. Isn’t it interesting what we retain (or fail to retain) from childhood?

Applying that basic analysis to the New Testament epistles, we are greatly helped. In addition to reading who the epistle of 1 Corinthians is from (1:1) and who it is to (1:2), we have a heading (helped by the information in verse 2), greeting (1:3), body (1:4-16:18), complimentary closing (16:19-20, 22-24), and signature (16:21). It is also in this first section of the letter (1:1-17) that we find the purpose of the letter. Notice some key aspects of these first several verses.

PAUL REMINDS THEM OF WHO THEY ARE (1:2-3)

In the daily grind, I can be apt to forget exactly who I am and who God has called me to be. It seems this had happened to the entire congregation at Corinth. Paul starts out this letter by reminding them they belong to God, set apart, and recipients of grace and peace. 

PAUL TELLS THEM WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR THEM (1:4-9)

Except for Galatians, Paul begins with a prayer, blessing, or thanksgiving. Here, Paul reminds them of how blessed they are–with grace (1:4), riches (1:5), confirmation (1:6), various blessings (1:7), hope (1:8), and fellowship with the Father and Son (1:9). I don’t know about you, but I often need to be reminded of how mindful the Lord has been of me. I need to reflect on my blessings so I won’t obsess over my problems. Paul is going to be addressing a serious problem in their lives, but he starts by centering their focus on their spiritual treasures. 

PAUL URGES SOMETHING OF THEM (1:10-17)

One of the ways a New Testament writer indicated the purpose of his writing is through petition verbs. While Paul actually uses a petition verb three times in this letter (1:10, 4:16, and 16:15), there’s no doubt that his first one sets the tone for the rest of the letter. They have a big problem at Corinth: division. We can see this in greater detail as we walk through the letter, but their division was seen in their allegiance to men instead of Christ, in their worship services, in their exercise of spiritual gifts, in their exercise of their Christian liberties, in their view on various sins, and more. So, Paul brings them into focus here.

  • He urges them to be complete, by being of the same mind and judgment (1:10).
  • He urges them to see the true nature of Christ (1:11-13).
  • He urges them to focus on the gospel and the cross (1:14-17). 

Keep in mind, as you read through this entire letter, that God had something He wanted Corinth and all subsequent churches and Christians facing the same general struggle to understand. It requires us to keep sight of our identity, blessings, and purpose. Otherwise, we open the door to division which can be the gateway to “disorder and every evil thing” (Jas. 3:16). 

photo credit: Flickr
Thee, Thou, Thy, And Thine

Thee, Thou, Thy, And Thine

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary Pollard

A prominent religious group is pretty well-known for their use of archaic pronouns in prayer. When asked about it, their official response is (paraphrased), “It’s more reverent and respectful,” (ldsliving.com). They believe that prayer is something that requires a special vocabulary, one that demonstrates a deeper respect for God. 

We do it, too, and for the same reasons they cite. I would like to offer some points to consider: 

1. Early Modern English does not demonstrate a greater level of respect. Why not use Middle English? Why not use Greek or Hebrew or Latin or Aramaic? From a purely linguistic standpoint, thee/thou/thine are not more formal in this century, and haven’t been for roughly three centuries (Yaswen, University of Toronto). Reverence comes from the heart. It is not something that can be invoked with a special vocabulary. 

2. It can be detrimental to evanglism. God expects us to emulate our culture as long as it doesn’t violate his law (I Cor 9.19-27). Many non-religious people, when talking about religious things, will switch to archaic, exaggerated English to highlight the oddness of religious people. An example in mainstream culture is the show Supernatural. One of the main characters reads something with archaic wording to another main character. When asked about it, his response was, “…that’s how God talks” (S8, E19). If our goal is to reach the lost, we should try to avoid potential obstacles (that aren’t related to doctrinal issues). When we invite them to worship, hearing, “Well-pleasing in thy sight,” or, “This, thy table,” or, “We thank thee, father,” etc. may reinforce Christianity’s irrelevance/social incompatibility in their minds. 

3. Biblical prayers do not teach a pattern of special language at all. Jesus’ example prayer was very simple (Matthew 6). Paul’s prayers did not differ from his conversational language (Eph 1.18; 3.14ff; Rom 1.8-10; 15.30-33; I Cor 1.4ff; II Cor 1.3ff; 9.12ff; Col 4.2ff; I Thess 3.9ff; 5.23f; II Tim 1.16ff; Philemon 4ff). No New Testament example suggests that using anything other than conversational language is superior. What does matter is our spiritual state when we pray (Jn 9.31; I Pt 3.7; I Tim 2.8). 

To be very clear, this is not a salvation issue at all. This is not even an indictment those who use Early Modern English pronouns in prayer. I strongly believe that Christians who pray or direct worship using old English have pure motives and are simply doing what they think most honors God! Hopefully this will serve as encouragement to evaluate our approach to prayer and worship so we can most effectively lead people to God. 

“To the Jews I became like a Jew so that I could help save them…to those who don’t practice the Law I became like someone who doesn’t practice the Law to help save them (though I am still ruled by Christ’s law). To those who are weak, I became weak so that I could help save them. I did this so that I could save people in any way possible. I do all this to make the Good News known. I do this so I can share in the blessings of the Good News” (I Cor 9.20-23). 

The God We Serve

The God We Serve

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

25 ways God has shown His love to us: 

  1. Creation (Genesis 1-2) 
  2. The Cross (Matthew 27:32-56) 
  3. Salvation (John 3:16) 
  4. The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16) 
  5. The Church (Ephesians 2:19-22) 
  6. The Ability To Pray (Philippians 4:6) 
  7. A Caring High Priest (Hebrews 4:15) 
  8. The Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5) 
  9. True Peace (Philippians 4:7) 
  10. Purpose (1 Peter 2:9) 
  11. Made Us Alive (Ephesians 2:5) 
  12. Servitude (Matthew 12:18) 
  13. Gave Us An Identity (John 1:12) 
  14. Joy (Proverbs 10:28)
  15. An Example (John 13:1-17) 
  16. Revealed Knowledge (Ephesians 1:17)
  17. Compassion (2 Corinthians 1:3-4) 
  18. The Good Shepherd (John 10:11) 
  19. Strength (Exodus 15:2) 
  20. Good Advice (Matthew 6:34
  21. Takes Our Anxiety (1 Peter 5:7) 
  22. A Refuge (Psalm 46:1) 
  23. A Resurrection (John 11:25) 
  24. A Place Of Rest (Matthew 11:29)
  25. He’s Coming Back (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)
Bragging On The Shepherd

Bragging On The Shepherd

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image-e1601983688162

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.