Why We Need To Listen To God

Why We Need To Listen To God

Saturday’s Column: Learning From Lehman

Kason Eubanks

Armando Alvarez was a former gang member that was giving an interview with Jesse Watters. They were talking about crime and what’s driving people to commit crime. Armando said that the biggest reason is they think they have to be better than everyone else. It is like a game in a way, he said.

The gang members think they will be happy with more and more things. They listen to what the world says will cause happiness. They compete with each other to see who can gain the most. They don’t know that there is an eternal place that you get to choose at the end of this life that will lead to eternal happiness. I would like to share just five scriptures about why we should not do our own thing but instead listen to God.

First, in Psalm 32:8 God is telling us that he will instruct us in the way we should go.

Then, Isaiah tells us in chapter 55 and verses 7-8 that our thoughts are not his thoughts and our words are not his words and our ways are not his ways. He is telling us that we need to follow God’s instruction because he knows what we don’t. He also sees all things that we cannot see.

Also in Jeremiah 17:7 we read that there are a lot more benefits of following God instead of leaning on our own understanding. There is a story about a kid in school that never hung up his jacket. The teacher warned him many times that if he left his jacket on the floor she would throw it away. The next time he left it on the floor she threw it away with intentions of getting the jacket out shortly after. That is until a kid got sick and threw up in the same trash can. The kid should have listened to the teacher. When we lean on our own understanding bad things can happen.

Then, Psalm 37:3-4 tells us that we should always have faith in him and all that he says to us.

Finally, Proverbs 3:5-6 ties back to Jeremiah about not leaning on our own understanding but trust in Him with all our heart, soul, and mind.

The question I want to ask you today is, “Do you listen to God’s instruction or do you do everything on your own?” I want to challenge us to go through the week and put God first however hard it may be to do it. We should let our light shine always for Christ and hopefully plant a seed in somebody’s life whether we know the person or not.

God’s instructions give us peace here on earth. We read in Romans that If God is for us, who can be against us. If you realize that you haven’t been following God’s instructions as you should and feel the need to make some changes in your life, know that God will always be with you.

(Armando Alvarez, gvwire)
There’s a Great Day Coming

There’s a Great Day Coming

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail 

Dale Pollard

For the past six days Russia has made significant advancements on several strategic locations in Ukraine. Every news outlet is showing photos and videos of devastation that has already occurred, and it’s predicted to escalate still. There are complicated foreign policies being discussed over topics like NATO, sanctions, and the effects on the rest of the world after Putin’s recklessness. 

Many countries are mad, some indifferent, while some cheer on their favorite country like it’s their favorite sports team. It’s chaotic and it’s concerning, but it’s not the Christian’s long-term problem. If this earth was our eternal home then I would be biting my nails and losing my hair. However, Christians all over the world should take comfort in the fact that heaven is a place where there is no war. We should remind each other that in order to make it, we are not required to be Republicans or Democrats. There are two camps in this world, but those aren’t it. The two groups are those who are lost and those who are saved. When you look at your TV or maybe out of your window and you see the death and carnage, we aren’t witnessing the death of heroes and villains. We’re watching souls walk through the door of eternity.

 Our focus is easily pulled away from the reality that is only seen through a spiritual lens but it’s the reality that matters the most. The lyrics of two hymns have been strung together in my mind this week, “There’s a Great Day coming and this world’s not my home.”

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Romans 12.19 

“I Can’t Come To Church Because Of Covid”

“I Can’t Come To Church Because Of Covid”

(Tuesday Supplement. Note: I am well aware that there are those who are immunocompromised and cannot attend. This is not in any way meant to discourage or dishearten those in this condition. God knows and understands.)

Neal Pollard

Covid has touched nearly every family I know, including my own. It would be foolish to say that it is harmless. It has claimed nearly 5 million lives as of today. So, I have heard from many good, thoughtful people, this statement: “I can’t come to church because of Covid.” Please accept that with deep, genuine love, there are a few questions that need to be asked alongside of this.

Are we being consistent? Are we still going to the grocery store, the restaurants, the beauty shop, the office, the classroom, the gym, and the doctor? Chances are at least as great that we will contract Covid in one of those places as at church. People are not more clean or careful in those places. 

Are we properly prioritizing?  Perhaps we see the stores, the job, the school, and the medical as essential and necessary. Jesus puts our spiritual health and that of His body above all else (Mat. 6:33; 16:26). How could we conclude that any of these others are more important than His kingdom?

Are we considering others? Perhaps we console ourselves by saying that we’re getting what we need by watching Facebook, Vimeo, YouTube, or wherever services are live-streamed. But, worship and Bible class is not simply about our being fed. We must consider one another to stimulate unto love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). That is said in connection with assembling together (Heb. 10:25), and how is this done by one who stays away from the assembly?

Are we weakening our spiritual strength? Is it getting easier to stay away or opt to just catch it on the phone, computer, or TV when we don’t feel like coming? Are we losing our desire to be with God’s people? Isolation has many effects, some more subtle than others.

Are we assessing our fears? Those who are waiting for Covid to go away will be waiting years or longer. This is a virus. Scientists doubt that it can be eradicated. It spreads too quickly. Perhaps it will be like Polio or smallpox, but how long will that be? Will we stay home for years? Meanwhile, where will be, spiritually, years from now if we have disconnected from our spiritual family? 

After 18 months, perhaps it is time to do some serious reevaluating? Instead of only allowing news outlets to be our guide, we need to balance that with careful study of God’s Word. Instead of considering just this life on earth, we should balance that by considering this life is for preparing for eternity. We need to be back together–all of us, now more than ever. 

Contentment 

Contentment 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

 

“But godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6.6 ESV). 

Recently, the battery of our 2014 Chevrolet Impala died while I sat in the local hospital’s parking lot. Of course, we did not realize that it was “just” the battery at the time. The problem seemed worse. As my dad and I were in a difficult situation, stranded in the hospital parking lot, we had the car towed to our local mechanic. Luckily we thought to facilitate everything through our local auto insurance agent, including our car rental. That choice certainly made things smoother. While our mechanic repaired our Impala, we rented a 2020 Toyota Corolla. I will be honest. I really liked the Corolla. I was a little disappointed when the mechanic called to let us know we could pick up our car.  

Isn’t that odd? There is nothing wrong with the 2014 Impala. Cosmetically, it looks good. It has low mileage. It is like one of those mythic cars that little old ladies only drove to church on Sunday. Yet, the Corolla had cool little bells and whistles. An alarm sounded if I drifted over the middle line or the line on the shoulder. (I heard that sound a lot, taking the many curves as I went over the mountain. It can be hard not to approach the middle or shoulder of the road when the road is curvier than it is straight.) The rental also had some driver-assist feature coupled with the cruise control that turned the wheel according to the road surface marking detected by its radar. Consequently, it handled curves well and had a good fuel economy. The only “negative’ was that road noise seemed more significant in this lighter automobile. 

Here is the question. From whence did my sudden discontentment arise?  It is not as if there is a need for a new automobile. Yet, driving a new car for a few days made me feel like I was missing out on something. It may be, too, that I was subconsciously acknowledging my desire to change something (anything) in my life. However, the problem with that thinking is that it reflects a lack of gratitude for my current blessings. Were I to go and buy a 2021 Corolla tomorrow, my happiness would be short-lived. Those elated feelings might last a few months or a year, but the pleasure would fade. What’s worse is that I would end up making myself more miserable by saddling myself with new debt as I paid off the car over several years. Indeed, discontentment is not a problem solved by material gain. 

Our emotions are complex. Indulging the lust of the eyes and flesh and the boastful pride of life may act as a placebo, obscuring the underlying problem. Still, there is no cure for discontentment besides gratitude and acceptance. As Paul reminds us, God supplies our every need (Philippians 4.19). Thus, we should be content with food and covering (1 Timothy 6.8). Should God bless us with more, it is a sign He expects more from us (Luke 12.48). And we are to be looking out for the interests of others (Philippians 2.4). Therefore, “while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Galatians 6.10 NASB1995). 

When you realize you are a citizen of another country and have your provisions as you make your way home, you, too, will feel contentment. It will certainly give you greater peace of mind. Then comes the realization that salvation and a loaf of bread are worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. Yes, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” 

 

What Messages Are We Sending?

What Messages Are We Sending?

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

Brent Pollard

The website Live Science recently published an article about our attempts through the years to communicate with extraterrestrial life. The piece, written by Isobel Whitcomb, is entitled “What messages have we sent to aliens?” We think of World War II as ushering in the concept of “little green men” with reported citings of UFOs (i.e., foo fighters) during aerial combat over Europe and the Pacific. Indeed, in the postwar years, Hollywood began churning out science fiction flicks like The Day the Earth Stood Still in 1951.  

Yet, people were thinking of the possibility of life “out there” before the mid-twentieth century. You may recall that H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds in 1897. Whitcomb mentions that Austrian astronomer, Joseph Johann Von Littrow, conceived the idea of digging trenches in the Sahara Desert and filling it with kerosene to set ablaze to send a message to otherworldly observers. Von Littrow envisioned this plan which never saw fruition in the early nineteenth century! 

From this point, Whitcomb points out the progressively advanced plans made and executed by humanity as our technology advanced. In 1962, Soviet scientists directed radio waves at Venus containing “peace” in Morse code. Eventually, in the late 1970s, the United States sent out two spacecraft which they hoped would be discovered by extraterrestrials in interstellar space. Yes, governments have spent millions of dollars to be greeted only with silence. (Another Live Science article by Mindy Weisberger posits that aliens ignore us after observing us like animals in a zoo.)  

Rather than worrying about messages that will never receive a response, we ought to concern ourselves more with messages we send to terrestrial and celestial beings. As Edgar Guest famously reminds us, most people would rather see a sermon than hear one. Indeed, our lives are sending out a message to others.  

  • We are sending a message to our spouses. Do husbands, specifically, love their wives as Christ loves the church? (Ephesians 5.25) Have wives been encouraged to love their husbands? (Titus 2.4) Do the husband and wife recall that they are not to separate what God has joined? (Matthew 19.6)  
  • We are sending a message to our children. Children see whether mom and dad seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6.33). Are fathers bringing up their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6.4)? Are mothers doing as Eunice and instilling a sincere faith in their children? (2 Timothy 1.5) 
     
  • We are sending a message to our neighbors. Do they see someone who strives to live peaceably with others to the extent to which it is possible? (Romans 12.17-19) Do they see someone following the “Golden Rule”? (Matthew 7.12) Do they know you love them as you love yourself? (Romans 13.9) 
     
  • We are sending a message to our enemies. Do they see someone who loves them despite being their enemy? (Matthew 5.44) Do they see one turning the other cheek to them? (Matthew 5.39-41) 
     
  • We are sending a message to the lost. Do the lost see one whose lack of self-discipline disqualifies the Gospel preached? (1 Corinthians 9.26-27). Do they see someone ashamed of the pure, unadulterated Gospel message? (Romans 1.16) 
     
  • We are sending a message to God. Our ways lay before the eyes of God, and He is watching all our paths (Proverbs 5.21). He will judge us according to even the secret things we have done (Ecclesiastes 12.14). Since God knows the heart, He knows who merely gives Him lip-service (Matthew 15.8-9). 

Yes, we are sending out messages. What messages are we sending? No, we don’t have to worry about miscommunication with the “Roswell Greys,” but we should concern ourselves with the message God and our fellow humans hear from us.  

Works Consulted: 

Whitcomb, Isobel. “What Messages Have We Sent to Aliens?” LiveScience, Future US, Inc, 20 Mar. 2021,www.livescience.com/messages-sent-to-aliens.html

Weisberger, Mindy. “Are Aliens Ignoring Us? Maybe We’re Already Their Captives in a ‘Galactic Zoo.’” LiveScience, Future US, Inc., 25 Mar. 2019, www.livescience.com/65063-meti-galactic-zoo-aliens.html.  

Further Reading: 

Janos, Adam. “Mysterious UFOs Seen by WWII Airman Still Unexplained.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 15 Aug. 2018, www.history.com/news/wwii-ufos-allied-airmen-orange-lights-foo-fighters

I Want To Be Happy

I Want To Be Happy

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

I was 16 years old and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a new phone. I was 17 years old and I told myself, I’ll be happy when I get my own vehicle. I was 18 and I remember thinking, I’ll be happy when I get a newer phone. I was 19 and I thought, I’ll be happy when I get a newer truck.

At 16 I got a new phone and I was happy, until I dropped it in a hotel toilet a month later. I was 17 and I got my own truck and I was happy, until the transmission went out on the way to school. I was 18 and I got a newer phone, and I was happy until I left it on the roof of my dads car as we drove home from church. I was 19 and I got a truck that was nicer than anything I could ever want. I was happy, until it broke down on an Indian reservation in Arizona.

I thought I knew what would make me happy. I chased after the physical possessions that I thought would bring me joy. The problem that I failed to see was that phones break and trucks aren’t always reliable. My happiness would run out when my stuff would break.

People are constantly searching for happiness. Why? Because they don’t know what will make them truly happy. It’s a daily experiment that never gives them the result they are looking for. There are millions of books, movies, articles, and lessons geared toward helping us find true happiness.

“How to be happy” is one of the most searched phrases on Google, second only to “how to lose weight.” We ask this question because we can’t find the answer. Solomon asked this question in Ecclesiastes. “Vanity of vanities. All is vanity says the preacher.” The wisest man in the world wanted happiness and looked at every possible solution. He looked to money, drinking, and women. Every time Solomon placed his happiness in these things, he was left feeling empty. He finally found the secret to life: “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecc. 12:13).

Every earthly option was tried, and none of them seemed to work. The bottom line is to fear God and keep His commandments. Why? Because God knows His creation. Do you struggle with finding happiness? Do you want nothing more than to be content? The answer isn’t found in the world. You won’t find true, lasting happiness in anything on this earth.

Happiness is found in our purpose as God’s chosen (1 Peter 2:9), in loving God (Deut. 6:5, Matt. 22:37-39), and in showing gratitude (Psa. 118:1; 136:1; 147:7).

The Silent Influence

The Silent Influence

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard
 
I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday morning and I came downstairs to see dad sitting where he always sat every single morning. He was in his lazy boy recliner drinking what was probably his third cup of coffee, wearing his fuzzy dad slippers and a pair of reading glasses. If I saw that combination, I knew what dad was doing.
 
Every morning he would get up early, grab his coffee, Bible, slippers and glasses, and sit in his lazy boy recliner. And every morning I would see him sitting there reading. When I look back and think about these instances, I now see just how powerful his actions were. He wouldn’t tell us what he was doing, he wouldn’t tell us to join him, he wouldn’t tell us why he was doing it. He would just grab his Bible and read.
 
When I think about influence this is what I think of. A committed man of God. Showing us by his actions how to grow our own relationship with The Father. The silent influence that I saw growing up has shown me the power of actions. Through his actions I saw what his priorities were. I saw what his focus was. I saw who he loved more than anyone else.
 
There’s nothing we should want more as Christians than to have this kind of influence on others. Not preaching at them day and night condemning them and cutting others down, but showing them by our actions what a relationship with God looks like. If we work on perfecting our faith and cultivating a genuine relationship with God, people WILL notice. For others to be affected by our influence we need to get three things straight: our priorities, our actions, and our speech.
 
When we think about winning souls, it’s best to start with our own before looking to others. If we can grow our faith and be fully invested in our relationship with God, people will notice and ultimately glorify God.
 
Matthew 5:13-16
“Nomophobia” 

“Nomophobia” 

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

That’s not a typo for another popularly-used term.  It’s actually a “thing,” at least according to a 2010 study by the UK Post Office.  It is short for “no-mobile-phone phobia” (Tim Elmore, psychologytoday.com). There’s even a website called nomophobia.com, and they identify “the four fears of Nomophobia”—broken, lost, stolen, or useless smartphones. While that site operates “tongue in cheek,” there are a bevy of experts more than ready to talk about how this is an epidemic impacting especially youth in our culture.  University of Connecticut School of Medicine’s Dr. David Greenfield has done much work in this study. He points to the problem of a dysregulation of dopamine, “meaning that it motivates people to do things they think will be rewarded for doing” (clever, cutting, or flamboyant Tweets, posts, pics, etc.) and that it can foster people’s addiction to the internet and technology (Madeline Stone, businessinsider.com). Greenfield adds, “That feeling you’re going to miss something if you’re not constantly checking is an illusion — most parts of our lives are not relevant to our smartphones. What happens on our devices is not reflective of what happens in real life” (ibid.).  There are even digital detox programs, in the United States as well as other countries around the world.  Psychiatrist Dale Archer gives this advice, “Stop texting while you’re driving. Don’t take it into the bathroom with you. Have a rule not to use your phone when you’re with your friends. If you’re on a date, make a rule that you’ll both check your phone for a maximum of 5 minutes every 90 minutes. It’s all about setting simple rules that you can follow” (ibid.).

Amateur psychiatrists and specialists everywhere can quickly diagnose this condition in their spouses and significant others, their children, and their friends, but they may be myopic to their own inordinate practice (see every airport, doctor’s office, restaurant, etc.).  Addiction to, or at least habitual abuse of, smartphones and similar technology is simply the latest and a more obvious example of a long-standing human tendency.  Paul told Corinth, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor. 6:12). In context, Paul is beginning a discussion of the sin of fornication after having talked about Corinth’s generally sinful past from which they had been forgiven.  Paul’s desire was not to be “mastered” (ruled, reigned over, Louw 37.48) by anything.  He later writes about the self-mastery and discipline necessary to live the Christian life (1 Cor. 9:24-27).

Cell phones are just one possible impediment to this.  There are so many other possibilities we must keep aware of, things which can derail us from our purpose and focus in this life.  So many of them are fine in balance and moderation, but we can allow them to consume and even overtake us.  A fear of being without those things is only one of the attending problems.  Being ruled by anything or anyone other than Christ is the overriding concern.  We are all served well by looking carefully at the things in our lives and make sure we have no master other than Christ.

“Calm Thyself”

“Calm Thyself”

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

It’s a jungle out there, so here’s some friendly reminders:

  1. We’re here for a short time, not a long time (James 4.14).
  2. God ultimately controls the outcome of November 3rd (Romans 13.1).
  3. This earth is fallen anyway and we’re looking forward to something way better (II Peter 3.10).
  4. We have more pressing matters to attend to (Ephesians 2.10; 4.11; Matthew 28.18ff).
  5. We’re ambassadors, not crusaders (II Corinthians 5.11ff).
  6. Mercy always trumps a condemning attitude (James 2.11ff). Contextually, this is about not showing favoritism based on appearance or status. A broader application concerning our attitude toward others in general is appropriate.
  7. Our attitudes may well be what condemns or saves a lost soul (Philippians in general, but specifically 2.5-11).
  8. Don’t be rude to people, but especially not to those in our spiritual family (Galatians 6).
  9. What we do about our beliefs speaks far more powerfully than what we say about our beliefs, and that can be amazing or especially harmful (James 2.18).
  10. Revelation 22.20!
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Ten Thoughts Your Church Visitors Are Thinking 

Ten Thoughts Your Church Visitors Are Thinking 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We’ve all had opinions and reactions in public that never made it from our brains to our mouths. Not all of these were positive, and perhaps that’s why they were never spoken.

Have you ever wondered what visitors who come into our home congregation are thinking? What do they make of the worship service? How do they see the people who fill the building?

I’d like to dedicate this post to the young people I’ve had the opportunity to talk with and who have privately expressed their first impressions of the Lord’s church. These honest thoughts did not come from people who were trying to be disrespectful.

Here’s a list of TEN thoughts (some rephrased) that most visitors won’t openly say. 

  1. “I guess I came underdressed for this church.”
  2. “Why do you stand for some songs and not the others?”
  3. “Why are the communion plates gold?”
  4. “I didn’t understand the purpose of the invitation.”
  5. “Nobody smiled much until after the service.”
  6. “I’ve got too much baggage for you guys.”
  7. “I didn’t even know this church was here.”
  8. “How much money was I supposed to put inside the plate?”
  9. “It’s a nice congregation, but there’s not a lot of people my age.”
  10. “Sorry for bringing my drink into the sanctuary.”

While these comments and questions may seem negative, I’m thankful that they’ve given us their perspective. As His church, we should be thoughtful about who we are, and what we’re engaged in when we come together.

We’re either involved in offering our Father praise and worship, or we’re enjoying the sweet fellowship that we have in Christ. God is our life, God is the One who gives every blessing, and God is the one who saved us from ourselves. With this in mind—

Here’s a list of FIVE things we can do to let visitors know what we’re all about. 

  1. We should carry ourselves with an attitude that expresses our joy and thankfulness. They may not understand everything about the service or the practical aspects of our traditions, but they see a group of people who have been given the greatest gift ever given.
  2. Let’s not place too much emphasis on the location of worship, but the worship itself. There’s nothing holy about the “sanctuary” but there should be something holy about the acts being done and the people in the pews.
  3. Even though we may have been to worship countless times, we shouldn’t assume that everyone completely understands what’s going on. There should be an effort put into briefly explaining why we’re participating in each act of worship, as well as who it applies to. For example, visitors are not required to give. We shouldn’t assume they already know this.
  4. We’re all in need of Christ’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace. God is the God of second chances…and beyond! Do the visitors know this? We’ve all got varying amounts of baggage, but even a small pocketbook full of sin is enough to eternally condemn us.
  5. No matter how odd things may appear to a first time visitor, if we can show them the love of Christ, what was once strange to them— just might become beautifully familiar.

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