Categories
angels grace prophet salvation

God’s Spiritual Stimulus Plan

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Many Americans have recently been recipients of a stimulus check. Quite a few have taken that and made some big purchases or padded a savings account or used it for much-needed relief. Whether or not this stimulus was an economically sound decision, most have seen it as a well-timed gift that – at least in the short term – has lessened some of the difficulties of this pandemic. It was designed to bring relief, and for many it has. 

We often look at salvation as something we received at baptism (which we did, I Pt. 3.21, Acts 2.38, Col. 2.12-14). We are grateful to have grace and a mediator for when we fall short as Christians, and this gift is not something we should ever take for granted. 

When we think about how we got salvation, though, we don’t always think about the enormous amount of preparation that went into it. The ability to have our sin problem erased (Colossians describes it as a certificate of debt with legal demands in 2.14) is no small gift. 

I Peter 1.10-12 says, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven – things into which angels long to look.” 

Briefly, I’d look to look at how this passage brings out the enormous value of salvation. Firstly, ancient prophets were told that this salvation was for future generations. They wrote about this while living under a far more difficult system of godly living, knowing that they would not be beneficiaries of that salvation. 

Secondly, the early church benefited from the sacrifices and hardships of those who brought the message of salvation to them. It was valuable enough that those men were willing to assume that risk to give it to others. 

Thirdly, angels – who, like the early prophets, are not beneficiaries of this salvation – were extremely interested in salvation. 

If two of the groups mentioned here were not even beneficiaries but strongly desired to know more about it or recorded it for all time, what does that tell us about salvation’s value? Peter set up its value this way to encourage the early church to live holy lives. 

Knowing just how valuable our salvation is should push us to live like we appreciate it! Not only does it have enormous value as a gift, the One who gave it wants us to have it. With that in mind, let’s cultivate greater appreciation and godliness because of the awesome gift of salvation. And if we know anyone who could use it, let’s pass the good news on to them, too. 

49776934207_46b3afb190_b

Categories
example leaders leadership Uncategorized

HOW TO TRULY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF OTHERS

Neal Pollard

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ira Boudway wrote a fascinating article about the perennially successful head basketball coach of the San Antonio Spurs. He called the piece, “The Five Pillars of Popovich.” Gregg Popovich, who has led the Texas team to five NBA championships in a little over 20 years, is the epitome of steady in a league notorious for constant change. Boudway laments that Popovich wouldn’t actually cite his own pillars of success, but the thoroughly researched column definitely exposes the principles that have made this legendary coach tick with exquisite precision. Those five pillars, in order, are:

  • Own your luck. That is, be modest, humble, and don’t try to take credit for things you didn’t do.
  • Do your work. The same tenacious ethic that made him way more of a player than he should have been has translated into his incredible success as a coach.
  • Unleash your anger (strategically). Know when (and how) to get angry, channeling your passion and conviction into others.
  • Widen your world. Always be a learner, and inspire others to do the same.
  • Know your people. Build relationships, taking time to really know the people in your circle of influence. Former player Will Perdue articulates what so many say of the coach, saying, “I was kind of amazed by how much he wanted to know about you as an individual… He saw you as a human being first and a basketball player second.” In Pop’s own words to Sports Illustrated in 2013: “Relationships with people are what it’s all about. You have to make players realize you care about them. And they have to care about each other and be interested in each other. Then they start to feel a responsibility toward each other. Then they want to do for each other.”

(Bloomberg Businessweek article)

We would modify and adapt the wording of some of the pillars, but the principles are unmistakably sound. When it comes to spiritual leadership, whether in the home or the church, these qualities are powerfully attractive.

Great leaders work hard to give others the credit and, most of all, God the praise. The goal is more important than the glory (Eph. 3:20-21).

Great leaders will not ask others to do what they won’t do (Mat. 23:3-4). They exemplify what they expect (Heb. 13:7).

Great leaders get the difference between the “big stuff” and the “small stuff.” Spiritual wisdom helps them channel their passion nobly. They reserve emotion for the eternal and temperance for the temporary.

Great leaders are learners, growers, and improvers. They hate complacency and disdain settling. Nowhere do they demonstrate this more than their pursuit of sacred truth, as consummate Bible students (2 Pet. 3:18).

Great leaders truly know those whom they lead. Assumptions, perceptions, prejudices, and appearances hamstring and even sabotage leaders. There is no substitute for loving people, genuinely caring about and being intimately involved in the lives of those whom they lead (John 10:1ff).

People are looking for leaders like this. They will follow them to the ends of the earth and, consequently, to heaven! None of these qualities necessitates a Ph.D. or a million dollars. They simply require dedication and discipleship! May God raise up more men who have the will and want to be successful leaders for Him!raburntrip-gunnison-9-21-07069

Categories
gospel preaching Uncategorized

My Heroes Have Always Been Preachers

Neal Pollard

I got to walk through the Aigne-Marne World War I American Cemetery east of Paris, France, in the Spring of 2006. It was dedicated in 1923 by an army general who said, “Now and then, a veteran will come here to live again the brave days of that distant June. Our countrymen will come here in hours of depression and even of failure, and take new courage from this shrine of great deeds.” 100 years later, memories have faded and fewer go there for inspiration. But soldiers, as well as policemen, firefighters, and doctors, are role models of bravery, sacrifice, and commitment that make great heroes.

My heroes have always been preachers, and I appreciate the depth of understanding I’ve gained from them. I’ve been motivated to live closer to Christ because of their preaching. Earthly memorials fade with time, but the value of good Bible teaching only grows with the passing of time. We must always measure what every preacher says by the Word of God and never blindly accept something just because someone we admire is the speaker (cf. Acts 17:11). But with that in mind, you can learn so much from older gospel preachers.

LISTEN TO THEIR SERMONS. Many old audio sermons are available online. Try wsoj.net, thepreachersvault.podbean.com, schwegler.us, housetohouse.com, pioneerpreachers.com, and therestorationmovement.com. There, you’ll find sermons of preachers who were much older when I was a boy and teenager, like V.P. Black, Franklin Camp, Roy Lanier, Sr., Bobby Duncan, and Wendell Winkler. There are also sermons from men who died before many of us were born, like N.B. Hardeman, B.C. Goodpasture, G.C. Brewer, and Marshall Keeble. These men were from a time when the church was experiencing incredible growth and when gospel preaching emphasized Bible doctrines and fundamentals. It’s a glimpse into church history from the voices of men who helped make it. Some of them baptized thousands and established many congregations.

READ THEIR BOOKS. I do not refer just the preachers from another time period, but those today, too. Those who have put much study into a topic of Bible book can bless you life and relationship with God. Read church history biographies, topical studies, sermon books, debate books, and the like.

HEAR THEM LIVE. I just ordered a set of DVDs from the 1988 Faulkner University lectureship. Though I was there live as an 18-year-old freshman, I am looking forward to reliving those wonderful days. I heard Franklin Camp, Hugo McCord, Leroy Brownlow, George DeHoff, Winfred Clark, Rex Turner, Sr., and others. My parents carried us to gospel meetings where I got to hear great preachers who have long since died. We still have that opportunity today through gospel meetings, workshops, seminars, and lectureships. We need to value this treasure in “earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7).

SPEND TIME WITH THEM. I have directed Future Preachers Training Camp since 2007. One of my goals for these teen boys is to allow them to see preachers out of the pulpit. Their teachers and counselors are mostly preachers. The campers find out we like sports, video games, listen to some of the same music, and go through many of the same kinds of things. We are ordinary men who sincerely care about them. Many preachers are interested in what’s going on in your life.

I feel I could have done many other things in life, but if I had it to do over again, I’d still be a preacher. That’s thanks in large part to the preachers I’ve known in my life. Take time to get to know preachers. It will encourage them, but it may just encourage you, too!

hqdefault
Perry Cotham in a 1989 debate in his “younger years” (77 years old). He was 101 when he died in 2013.
Categories
church growth gospel preaching Uncategorized

“GM”

Neal Pollard

I make a notation “GM” along with the date and place on the paper copy of my sermons to indicate that I preached that sermon in a gospel meeting. It is one of my homemade preacher shorthand notations. Growing up a “PK” (“preacher’s kid,” of course), I’ve got a lot of GM memories. I would not trade anything for them, especially the indelible imprint they made on me in shaping the adult I have become. Let me encourage you to bring your children and yourselves to our gospel meetings for what they will mean to your faith and for the part of you they will forever become. To me, the GM of gospel meeting stands for a few other things, too.

Great Memories. When James Watkins held a meeting for us in 1984 in Franklin, Ga., I led singing that Sunday night. I was 14, and this participation was a big deal to me. I led, “Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah” and in verse three mistakenly bellowed out, “All ye fruitless trees and cedars.” Once when the air conditioner was out, we opened the side doors on either side of the pulpit for relief in that muggy July, west Georgia heat. This was an open invitation for the horse fly that landed on the calf of my leg during the chorus of “the song before our opening prayer,” which bit mercilessly until I could swat it during said prayer (which was by no means a quiet slap).

I remember attending a meeting in Carrollton, Georgia, and being jolted by Bobby Duncan’s dramatic cries of “the boy is home!” in his powerful telling of the story of the prodigal son. I remember, though, I was no more than 5 or 6, the smell of hay and watching members set up a portable baptistery for a tent meeting my dad preached in Aragon, Ga. I remember the family car rides when we rode to others’ meetings. I remember the baptisms, restorations, preaching, and fellowship so much a part of these special times.

Giant Men. Through this venue I first became acquainted with men who became my heroes: Frank Chesser, Perry Cotham, Howard Swann, James Watkins, Bobby Duncan, Truman Cobb, Franklin Camp, Winfred Clark, Wendell Winkler, Glen Posey, Ken Thomas, V.P. Black and others. I remember playing basketball with Ken Thomas, who had to play in his socks and still took us all to school (he also demolished me in a game of “punt, pass, and kick”). I recall having me heart stirred and being convicted of sin by the penetrating preaching of Frank Chesser.

I vividly recall being amazed by Perry Cotham, who seemed to me even three decades ago to be a very old preacher (I saw him preach in California when he was in his late 90s). I will never forget being touched by Franklin Camp’s tender heart as he told the story of Christ’s crucifixion. I was wowed by J.J. Turner’s ability to turn a phrase. There was the time when I walked by James Watkins’ hotel room and saw him diligently studying his Bible in the middle of the afternoon. These men were spiritual giants to me.

Gospel Message. Even as a child, I learned so much from the sermons I heard. I saw things in a new way because every preacher has his own unique style, history of study, and method of delivery. I was challenged by the Bible-centered approach these men faithfully took. I got my first glimpse at sermon organization, taking crude notes and main points from sermonic masterpieces. Meeting after meeting, year after year turned my heart and mind more and more to the Bible. Even then, I saw, at least to a juvenile degree, the effectiveness of this method of evangelism and edification.

Give your children, your mate, your non-Christian friends and neighbors, and yourself the pleasure of experiencing these unparalleled joys. The Godhead and the heavenly host pay particular interest to each service of every gospel meeting. Let us join them there and grow from hearing anew the wonderful story of love. It will stay with you for a lifetime.

dad-gallery-042407

Categories
false teachers preaching teaching

Traits Of A False Teacher

Neal Pollard

John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7). The particular deceiver in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself. There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth of Christ and about Him. Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known.

  • They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). They distort what grace is, making it a blanket that hides blatant, willful sin, lust, and materialism. Some rationalize and condone the practice of sin, with the false assurance that God’s grace will cover it without an abhorrence of sin and genuine repentance.
  • They cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11). Superficial comfort is given to people in their sin. How many preachers, rather than confronting sin, tell people they’re OK?
  • They overthrow the faith of people (2 Tim. 2:18). Teaching which distorts or waters down the potency of scripture is to faith what a virus is to the immune system. False teaching destroys people’s faith in God.
  • They teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). If it contradicts or nullifies revealed truth, it is of man rather than God. Looking at Christendom today, so much of what is widely embraced and assumed to be true are blatant departures from the Bible.
  • They cover up their true intentions (Matt. 7:15). Jude describes the various motives of false teachers. Some do so for the sake of being accepted. Others do it for illicit gain. Some do so out of an arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, they usually insist they are trying to help people get closer to God. Jesus insists that they deliberately hide their agenda.
  • They are well-liked (Luke 6:26). Few preachers relish offending people or upsetting them. Yet, preaching the whole counsel of God means that, sometimes, some will not like it. Preachers and teachers should proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but truth taught will sometimes offend no matter how pleasantly and gently it is delivered. Those who compromise truth to placate their hearers may have their acceptance, but God will reject them.
  • They secretly introduce their teaching (2 Pet. 2:1). Why? Were they to publicly proclaim such ideas, they would be exposed. Their ideas can only survive if spread to weak-faith individuals who are not so discerning in more intimate settings. Truth is not afraid of inspection. Error grows in darkness rather than “Sonlight.”
  • They are destined for eternal torment (Rev. 20:10). No matter what success they achieve in this life, there will be an eternity to pay for it. Take soberly the warning of James 3:1.

Preachers (and teachers), have backbone. Preach the truth, even if it is difficult and opposed. Have faith. Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all. Have conviction. Do not let circumstance determine content (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

Categories
authority eldership service

“To Protect And To Serve”

Neal Pollard

This now famous motto came into the public consciousness as part of a contest run by the Los Angeles Police Department’s internal magazine, BEAT, in 1955. Officer Joseph Dorobek submitted the winning entry with “to protect and to serve.” Nearly 60 years later, it continues to be seen on the side of the department’s patrol cars and serves to “embody the spirit, dedication, and professionalism” of the LAPD’s officers (via joinlapd.com).

With so much animus and distrust of law enforcement in some circles right now, it can be easy to forget their vital role of keeping peace and enforcing the law.  Without them, anarchy and violence would reign, with no one to restrain the lawless from violating and harming those incapable of defending themselves.  While there are unethical, lawless individuals in every profession, many who hear reports against law enforcement never stop to ask whether there is ever bias on the part of the reporters.  Perhaps it is a bias against law, authority, or the perceived power delegated to those wielding a badge.  It is good to remember that God has appointed the governing authorities of each locale (cf. Rom. 13:1ff).

God does not have an official position in His Kingdom for watchdogs or police officers to police the actions of others.  He made us creatures of choice and He allows us to choose good or evil.  While occasionally there are preachers and other members who are self-appointed to such a position, the concept is foreign to Scripture.  However, He did organize the church with elders who protect (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2) and deacons who serve (1 Tim. 3:10,13).  In fact, all members are to be servants of Christ (Gal. 5:13).  Preachers are to preach the word, and when they declare the whole counsel in love (Acts 20:27; Eph. 4:15), they will sometimes convict the hearts of the hearers.  Particularly elders, who are commissioned to protect and serve the flock, deserve our respect and esteem (1 Th. 5:12-13).  Especially is that vital in an age that disdains authority.

It was an honor for me to serve as a reserve police officer in Livingston, Alabama, for a couple of years in the early 1990s.  I was able to see the dedication and sense of honor held by these extraordinary men and women. Let us honor those public servants of God (Rom. 13:6) and those spiritual servants of God (1 Th. 5:13)!

Categories
politics

PREACHERS AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM

Neal Pollard

Being patriotic and having a political heritage like we do in this country, we may have strong, personal convictions in the realm of politics. Engaging in the political process, from volunteering to voting to political meetings, can help us not only be a positive agent of change but also salt and light before the world. But nothing can have a quicker negative impact on ministry than a “stumping sermonizer” or “campaigning church man.” I’ve known preachers who seem CONSUMED with politics and can hardly speak without ranting about it.  It just comes out! Beware that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of what’s in the heart (Mat. 12:34). Some preachers betray that they’re dwelling more on things below than things above (Col. 3:1-2).

The church began in the midst of political rottenness and corruption. Tacitus wrote of Augustus Caesar that he “seduced the army with bonuses, and his cheap food policy was successful bait for civilians. Indeed, he attracted everybody’s goodwill by the enjoyable gift of peace. Then he gradually pushed ahead and absorbed the functions of the senate, the officials, and even the law. Opposition did not exist. War or judicial murder had disposed of all men of spirit. Upper-class survivors found that slavish obedience was the way to succeed, both politically and financially” (https://facultystaff.richmond.edu/~wstevens/history331texts/augtotib.html). Of course, certain Jews did consume themselves with political interest and revolted against Rome—A venture that ended badly at Jerusalem and Masada. Read Tamarin’s classic book, Revolt In Judea, if you want the horrible details.  Politicians of the first century were guilty of wanton sexual immorality, including homosexuality and adultery; They practiced infanticide and whet their appetites for death and violence in their stadiums and arenas.  Where is Peter’s or Paul’s diatribe in scripture against vices and corruptions that sound a lot like our day? Where are the early Christians with their pickets and protests against the government?  Instead, “They went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4)!

Political activism will hurt our efforts to effectively evangelize. How tragic to lose a soul trying to win a political argument!  Political activism, in preachers, can negatively impact what the church has paid them to do. They certainly didn’t pay him to spend all day on social media trolling stories or writing quips. They didn’t hire him to go to political rallies, being more wrapped up in affairs of state than affairs of heaven.

Paul was actually able to have an audience with the most prominent politicians of his day. Was he interested in discussing national or imperial policy with them?  Before Felix and Agrippa, he preached righteousness, temperance and judgment to come.  In Acts 27, he says God appointed him to speak before Caesar.  What could happen among us if more were devoted to spiritual revival than political reform?

Categories
Current Events Judgment Day Second Coming

An Honest Obituary

Neal Pollard

It was the early 1990s, and I, as a green, inexperienced preacher, was asked to do a funeral for a man from the community with no real religious roots.  It was my first funeral for a non-Christian and I went, armed with the knowledge gained from Wendell Winkler’s Preacher And His Work class, prepared to preach to the living neither giving false hope nor crushing the hearts of people I was trying to reach.  I remember standing nervously in the back of this old denominational church building out in the country.  A group of men gathered there, who I later learned were the pall bearers, were talking caustically about someone.  One said he had made a pass at his wife. Another said he had stolen two of his cows the previous week.  He was a good-for-nothing snake in the grass. Honestly, I was now listening very closely.  I was shocked when one said, “If he hadn’t died, I might have killed him.”  They were talking about the deceased, the man whose funeral I was about to preach.  Needless to say, I felt no pressure to “preach him into heaven.”  Five minutes before the funeral, I wrestled with whether or not my words were too plain or off-putting. Five minutes after it, one of those pallbearers told me, “Preacher, you gave him a better funeral than he deserved.”

If you are prone to read obituaries or as you reflect on every funeral you have attended, everyone speaks of every dead person as if they are the most wonderful, saintly individual who has ever lived.  Some, considering the circumstances of the deceased’s lifestyle, brashly speak of them being in heaven even if the one never made mention of or made preparation to go there.  It is a significantly disgusting thing to hear people blithely pronouncing people saved in death who were disobedient to God’s saving plan in life.

A few months ago, the children of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick defied this common trend upon her death. They literally celebrated her passing by publishing a “scathing” obituary in their local Nevada newspaper. The obituary, published in September, 2013, begins, “”On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children” (via Newsmax.com).  The article gives details of her horrific abuse of the six children, which abuse she regularly inflicted before she lost custody of them to a Nevada Children’s Home.   While they gave no speculation about her eternal destiny, neither did they sugar-coat or white-wash her life.

Who knows what will be said about us when we die?  However naughty or nice it is matters little next to what our Lord knows and sees. He will “judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:1).  He will be the “righteous Judge” (2 Tim. 4:8; Acts 17:31).  He will tell it like it is concerning each of us as we are gathered with all the nations (Mat. 25:31ff).  Heaven keeps, if you will, a perfect, accurate obituary on file for each of us when we die.  The Bible calls it “the Book of Life” and the dead will be “judged according to their works, by the things which [are] written in the books” (Rev. 20:12b).  Let us live so we are not ashamed for that record to be revealed.