A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

A Simple Way To Simply Live Better

 Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

We would all like to improve in many ways, but many of us are also well aware of the flaws we feel are holding us back. Those shortcomings tend to get in the way, slow us down, or even prevent us from achieving the quality of life that we desire. While there is plenty of room for improvement in my life, I have found that there is a simple way to clearly envision where I am currently, and also plan for where I would like to be in the future. 

It’s true that our burdens often come from our blessings. For example, the blessing of having a car may result in the burden of expensive bills that follow a mechanical issue. 

I believe that there are five major buckets of blessings that we all must give our time and attention to. They are the five categories that if purposefully tended to, our lives can be wonderful. On the other hand, if neglected, we find ourselves in a head spinning spiral of worry and anxiety. 

These buckets are: 

  1. Faith 
  2. Mental maturity 
  3. Physical health 
  4. Relationships 
  5. Work 

If one of those buckets isn’t filled with the proper content, I’m sure you’re aware of the negative effects. If these crucial categories are filled correctly, our quality of life will only improve. 

God is the Creator of life itself which makes Him the leading authority on the subject. Consider how He can help you in each of the five areas listed above.

Faith 

By denying self, our focus is diverted away from our negative self- absorption. Putting God and others first can give you a better, fresh, and positive perspective. 

Acts 20:35

Mental maturity 

When we seek to understand our own minds and what makes us tick, we’ll be able to identify where these negative thoughts and reactions originate. 

Philippians 4:8

Physical health 

Poor health habits like fast-food diets, lack of physical exercise, and sleep deprivation only make dealing with stress all the more difficult. God designed your body to function properly when properly taken care of. 

Luke 1:37 

Relationships 

Every kind of relationship, whether marriages, friendships, family, co-workers, or the church, has one thing in common—they were made by God. Thankfully, God wrote a book to help us understand who we are to be to each individual that make up those groups. 

Romans 12:16

Work 

God built us to work— He expects us to. Some choose to be lazy and suffer. Others choose to constantly work to the neglect of the four other areas mentioned. There must be a balance, and God knows that. 

Psalm 128:2 

While there’s a lot more to be said concerning these five categories, I hope this simplified things and helped you refocus on what really matters. 

Hopefully, looking at life through His divine lens has reminded you of Who you should turn to for everything. He has given you the ultimate assurance— and He is willing to give you the ultimate assistance. 

Monday Through Saturday Relationships

Monday Through Saturday Relationships

Gary Pollard

We get an interesting glimpse into the life of the early church in Acts 2.44-47. While it is not practical for us to live in that same way, there is one principle that we should examine. The early church spent a great deal of time together outside of their worship on the first day of the week. Acts 2.46 says, “And day by day, they were devoted to the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all of the people.” What’s going on here? The members of the church dedicated time every day to growing in their relationships with one another. To them, “church” was so much more than just showing up for worship every time the doors were open. It was the Monday through Saturday relationships that fortified their faith. 
What was the result of this dedication? “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2.47). Are we likely to live for a faith we have not invested in? Are we likely to stand up under trials if we do not have a sense of community in the church? Are we likely to resist temptation without strong ties in God’s family? The early church faced trials we could never understand, yet they remained faithful because of their strong relationships and resulting faith. 
The early church relied on constant contact with one another to help them build their faith. Nothing builds a Christian’s faith more than being around a group of people who want the same thing (to live like Christ), genuinely care for one another, and share a common goal (heaven). 

One Of The Hardest Disciplines To Master

One Of The Hardest Disciplines To Master

Bulletin Article For Lehman Avenue (7/26/20)

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Neal Pollard

Friendships, businesses, marriages, organizations, and churches all suffer when this fails. There are many more ways to do it wrong than right. But, it is the lifeline of every important relationship, from God to mankind to the smallest child. Here are some suggestions that can help us all improve in it.

C–orrespond. It is not communication if only one side is doing it. At times, we send the message that a person is not important or valued if their email, text, or phone call is not followed up on. Likewise, a relationship cannot be strong where only one side is talking.

O–penness. We may not know how to disagree, correct, or suggest something to someone without fearing that it will escalate, be taken the wrong way, or just be unpleasant. So, we may mask criticisms, feelings, suggestions, or complaints so effectively that the other person is unaware of how we feel. Each of us need to be approachable and reasonable so that others feel free to be open with us. “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed” (Prov. 27:5). 

M–anage. Sometimes, we fail to communicate (especially by phone, email, or other electronic means) because a person too frequently reaches out to us or consumes a lot of our time. It is important to maintain balance and keep control of our own resources like time and productivity. Most of us have several people and obligations in our lives and cannot let one or a few take up all of our time (Eph. 5:16). 

M–odel. Take the first step. Show others by example how to effectively communicate. Learn and grow, then turn and show. Read the gospels and see how Jesus communicated. He is the great example (1 Pet. 2:21). 

U–nity. “How can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). Communication allows us to know what others are thinking, whether they are in agreement or disagreement. Unity is forged through communication. Division thrives in miscommunication or the failure to communicate. How bound together can homes, churches, friendships, and workforces be where communication is lacking?

N–otice. Some of the best communication occurs when we are tuned in to people. In face to face conversation, observing body language and tone of voice. On the phone, listening for verbal cues and clues. In written correspondence (messages and emails), discerning what the main point is. Communication is at least as much about being an effective listener as it is about getting our message across clearly. Great communicators are attuned to others. 

I–mportant. Good communicators make sure that everyone at work, church, school, home, and the like feel valued. Avoid being selective and making only rich, powerful, pretty, or smart people (as we judge it) feel important. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35). Should we be?

C–ourtesy. How much does it cost to be kind, yet what dividends can it pay in relationships? Being responsive sends such a powerful message. So does being ignored. The Golden Rule is simple: “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). 

A–dapt. Everyone has their preferred methods of communication as well as those they dislike. Be guided by how others prefer to communicate and try to accommodate as you are able. It’s not fair to expect everyone to communicate with you only in the way you prefer. This is an example of Paul’s being all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:19-22). 

T–imely. Delay becomes disregarded at some point. Procrastination is the thief of time, but also the robber of relationships. We can actually more efficient if we will respond quickly, if possible. If we are prevented from immediately replying, we should make it a priority or we easily forget. 

E–veryone. These rules of communication really apply to all of us, no matter who we are, what the relationship is, or what we do. Some of the busiest people I know are nonetheless great communicators. They have no more time, intelligence, or ability. They realize how vital it is to the overall well-being of their relationships. Christians are in the relationship business!

The Art Of Conversation

The Art Of Conversation

Neal Pollard

With conversation, when both are active listeners, you are exchanging ideas. Along with this, there’s body language and tone of voice which give clues to what the words mean to the speaker. You negotiate, reason, affirm or deny, and continue through these patterns while discussing any number of subjects. This process is invaluable to building relationships, working together, and even evangelism. For all its advantages, social media lacks almost all of those dimensions.

MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle, in the book Reclaiming Conversation (New York: Penguin, 2015), makes the case that we are talking more than ever but we’ve lost the art of conversation.  Turkle observes, “From the early days, I saw that computers offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship and then, as the programs got really good, the illusion of friendship without the demands of intimacy” (7).  What demands? Paying attention, building trust, having empathy, and giving thoughtful responses (as opposed to rude, reckless ones). 

I’m not trying to militate against the use of social media platforms, texting, or emailing. But the more we gravitate toward those to do our “communicating,” the less we successfully navigate the more difficult, yet more rewarding, art of conversation.

When we read the Bible, we are struck–from beginning to end–with the pervasive importance of dialogue and conversation. From Genesis one, where we read the Godhead’s conversation, “Let us make man…,” to Jesus’ conversation with John in Revelation 22, conversation is indispensable. Not only did God create interpersonal relationships and the vehicle of conversation to build them, but He models it throughout the pages of Scripture.

This article seeks to inform, teach, and even persuade, but it is only one dimension of communication. One might argue that other forms of communication are not only necessary, but in many cases will be more effective. The snippets and soundbites of social media postings, much more condensed and lacking context, while being pithy and thought-provoking, are no substitute for what happens face to face in the tension, hard work, and unpredictable dynamic of conversation. Conversation necessitates practice, attention, and mental engagement. 

From the dawn of time, God observed that it’s not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). As suggested by the title of another book by Turkle, Alone Together, we find ourselves increasingly isolated from others and more ill-equipped for building real life relationships. The antidote to that is simple and so attainable.

Let’s engage people more. Let’s resort more to making real life connections and less to hiding behind screens. Let’s look for opportunities to do this with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Let’s connect more in real life. As with anything, the more we practice the better we’ll get at it. 

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Photo credit: Michael Hite

 

How To Improve Your Love Life

How To Improve Your Love Life

Neal Pollard

  • Even when provoked, endure without complaining.
  • Give your spouse a gift (not necessarily monetary) as an act of kindness.
  • Avoid intensely negative feelings toward your spouse’s success and jealousy over them.
  • Avoid an exaggerated conception of yourself or an inflated ego.
  • Avoid behaving in a way that shames, disgraces, or embarrasses your mate.
  • Don’t be selfish and self-centered.
  • Don’t be easily stirred to anger and irritated toward your mate.
  • Don’t keep score.
  • Don’t derive delight and happiness from the sinful in your marriage.
  • Delight in the things that God promotes and delights in.
  • Put up with annoyances and difficulties in your marriage.
  • Have faith in your mate.
  • Think positively about and anticipate the future with your spouse.
  • Dedicate yourself to standing by your mate’s side, for better or worse, in sickness and health, etc.

No, that does not sound like what the world’s “love doctors” will tell you, but it’s a short summary of the 14 characteristics of love that Paul gives as part of the inspired definition of that word (1 Cor. 13:4-7). The love he writes about is that highest form of love, exclusive, totally committed, totally trusting, uplifting, edifying, unselfish, connected to faith and hope.

When we pore over those qualities and see how God defines it, it leaves us fully aware of the fact that each of us, in our relationships, has so much room for growth and improvement in the “love life” of our marriages. My prayer for each of us who is married that, not just on days like today but every day, we will focus on how we can improve the love we demonstrate in our marriages.

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Resolutions Reinforcements–#6

Resolutions Reinforcements–#6

Neal Pollard

“Who cares?” That is not necessarily an expression of apathy or scorn. All of us need to feel like we have people in our lives who care about us and our wellbeing. Such people should do more than offer positive reaffirmation and reassurance. We benefit from those who keep us honest and are willing to say even the difficult things we need to hear. When we talk about goals and resolutions, we need at least someone whom we seek out to hold us accountable. Accountability, in its strictest sense, means “liable to judgment and punishment” when used of God’s holding mankind accountable (Rom. 3:19; BDAG 1037).  Today, we typically mean by accountable that we are responsible to someone to explain or defend our actions. Am I succeeding or failing? Who will help me accurately assess that?

Augustine of Hippo, in his fourth-century Confessions, wrote, “A brotherly person rejoices on my account when he approves me, but when he disapproves, he is loving me. To such people I will reveal myself. They will take heart from my good traits, and sigh with sadness at my bad ones. My good points are instilled by you and are your gifts. My bad points are my faults and your judgements on them. Let them take heart from the one and regret the other. Let both praise and tears ascend in your sight from brotherly hearts, your censers. …But you Lord…Make perfect my imperfections.” We are well-served to have those willing to disapprove, to sigh, and to render gentle judgment as much as give their positive counterparts.

Do you have someone in your life right now who can help you stay accountable to your goals? Ideally, it would be your spouse, but maybe it’s a trusted friend, a sibling, a local Christian, a church leader, or a parent. Find someone in whom to confide your goals and then establish a system to have them evaluated. Just knowing that someone else knows what you’re aiming at may dramatically improve your likelihood of hitting it.

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The Word Is “Relationship”

The Word Is “Relationship”

Neal Pollard

Soon, we’ll have lived in our current home for two years.  We are enjoying the house, the location, the neighborhood, and most of the neighbors. However, one that lives pretty nearby has proven less than pleasant.  His wife is an officer in our neighborhood HOA, and each month’s newsletter is a new posting of the hierarchy’s “95 theses.”  Hardly anyone can keep from committing at least one infraction—certainly not us.  They’ve had very little communication with us except when the husband complained that our compost pile was too close to the fence (on the other side of which were his garbage cans).  Recently, while seeking our permission to re-paint their house, he took the opportunity to inspect the state of cleanliness of our garage.  I share his desire that we keep our homes and yards in good shape, as property values are riding on our collective interest in such.  The problem for them is that they have spurned our efforts at a relationship and they have done nothing to create one themselves.  Thus, we tolerate and peacefully co-exist.  But, there is no relationship.

Have you thought about how vital relationships are to our lives?  Think about how ineffective we are with people without them.  At best, we are mere associates. At worst, we become antagonists.  Think of how vital the entity of relationship is to:

  • Marriage (1 Pet. 3:7).
  • Parenting (Deu. 6:1ff).
  • A congregation (1 Th. 5:11).
  • Shepherding (John 10:4-5).
  • Church discipline (2 Cor. 2:6-8).
  • Restoring the erring (Gal. 6:1-2).
  • Preaching (2 Tim. 2:24-26; 4:2).
  • Church works (Eph. 4:16).
  • Deacons’ work (Acts 6:7).
  • Soul-winning (Col. 4:2-6).
  • Friendship (Prov. 18:24b).

Taking the time to build rapport may be mentally and emotionally exhausting at times.  The best of relationships will have their downs as well as their ups.  But God created us social beings not meant for isolation (Gen. 2:18).  Joel O’Steen is shallow and superficial in his “preaching,” but tens of thousands of people are drawn to him because they find him relatable. His message is deadly, but his method is engaging.  Some who consider themselves the staunchest “defenders of the faith” are virtual porcupines with their quills primed to stick those in their proximity.  Surely those of us striving to follow New Testament Christianity can strive to build relationships while we steadfastly teach and follow the truth.  How much more effective will we be as we conquer this principle every day?

“As We Go Our Separate Ways…”

“As We Go Our Separate Ways…”

Neal Pollard

I’ve heard this prayed my whole life: “Be with us as we go our separate ways.”  I fully appreciate what is meant, but I lament a trend I’ve seen for many years.  Too often, we go our separate ways until the “next appointed time.”  We have no contact with one another. Instead, the bulk or totality of our contact is with worldly people with ungodly philosophies.  While we need to be among the world to exert salt and light, perhaps we have neglected something else that first century Christians took full advantage of.  Luke describes it this way, saying, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart” (Acts 2:46).  As he had observed in verse 42, they were continually devoting themselves to fellowship.  This created a close knit community that could not only weather some huge storms of opposition, but it helped them produce an attractive environment that thousands of people wanted to be a part of. Perhaps we discount or even overlook what a vital part of church growth that fellowship and time together had on the early church.

Today, we have our civic activities, our kids’ full slate of responsibilities, our work and overtime, our personal entertainment regimen, and similar time-consuming matters that are not inherently wrong but that can help create a dramatic separation from our spiritual family during the week.  Where is the time allotment for getting together with other Christians during the week?  Have we relegated or resigned ourselves to Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night?  Are we losing the art of hospitality, of having spiritual family over to deepen Christian relationships?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to speak of each other and say that our hearts have “been knit together in love” (Col. 2:2)?  In that same context of the church’s beginning mentioned earlier, Luke adds, “All those who had believed were together and had all things in common” (2:44).  What will happen to the local church that becomes very intentional about this, not just with an exclusive few but in a way that includes new Christians, potential Christians, the otherwise disconnected, and those of different as well as similar demographics? Certainly, it requires time, effort, and even some expense, but what will it yield?  A feeling of connection in the place of separation.

Little Things?

Little Things?

 

Neal Pollard

Look what one look at a woman bathing on her rooftop cost a man, his home, and his country.  The pronunciation of one word spelled the difference between life and death for a nation of people.  One word inserted by a serpent changed the course of human history forever.

One visit to a website, one indiscreet email or phone call, one moment of anger and fury, one rash and foolish decision made before a new Christian, or one “white lie” can create unbearable consequences to the heart, destiny, and influence of a person.  Rationalization that it’s only once or only a little can be fatal, both to self and others.

But this “little thing” principle applies to attitude, too.  A brief, gossiping conversation may seem harmless, but discourage or devastate the subject of it.   Small, snide comments about the elders, Bible class teachers, deacons, or others may divide friends for a long time.  A grudge-bearer may help divide a church over a single, relatively minor incident having long since occurred.  “Little,” too often, is in the eye of the beholder.

A dear preacher friend of mine, David Sain, once illustrated this point very well.  He wrote:

I once read a statement that really got my attention.  It declared that a
tiny gnat can wreck an automobile.  Of  course, I wondered, “How?”
The article then explained that a tiny gnat had wrecked a car by flying
into the eye of the driver at a critical time, causing him to lose control.
So often in life, little things can do great harm.  It is easy for us to be
like that gnat.  Our petty criticisms, murmuring, complaints, and fault-
finding can “wreck” the most ambitious person or program.  Friend,
what our world needs is builders-not “wreckers.” (via Eastern Meadows Church
Bulletin, Montgomery, AL).

Let’s be careful with our influence, not minimizing our impact on others by our words, acts, and attitudes.  We want to do the little things that make a church great, through those same mediums.  As David says, let us build rather than wreck!

GOD’S RELATIONSHIP TO ME

GOD’S RELATIONSHIP TO ME

Neal Pollard

The prophet Jeremiah was concerned about the task before him. He felt he was unqualified and unseasoned (1:6).  He was wrestling with fears (1:8).  Whether or not we preach the gospel, as Christians living in this world we can relate to how hard it can be to stand up for Jesus.

The “omniscient” (all-knowing) God makes three statements about the as yet unborn Jeremiah. The God who sees the future as though looking at the past (cf. Isa. 46:10) says some things about Jeremiah before he was placed in his parents’ arms.  Consider three things God tells Jeremiah to reassure him and that bear relevance to us today.

God knew him. This seems to be specific and personal. How exciting to think that God sees us, as our hair, organs, bones and features develop, and knows who we are.

God set him apart.  He says, “I consecrated you.”  Some in religious error have made too much of this, teaching that God chooses us against our will and arbitrarily decides whether we are saved or lost.  God is simply saying, “I had you in mind to work for me.”  Isn’t it incredible to think that God thinks so much of us as to give us work to do.  The Great Commission confirms that God thinks that way about you and me, too (cf. Mark 16:15).

God gave him a job.  He says, “I appointed you.”  Does God determine your occupation, location, and station in life?  I cannot answer for Him, but He says that Jeremiah was appointed a prophet.  Jeremiah could have exercised free will and rejected the assignment, but that does not negate what God saw for him.  I know that Paul says we have differing abilities (cf. Rom. 12:6; 1 Cor. 12:4ff).  Observation says that we have different personalities, temperaments, and characteristics.  Whatever that is, we are all well-suited to serve some way in God’s kingdom.  The question then only remains, “Will we do our job?”

God is not detached and unconcerned about this world or the seven-plus billion people currently inhabiting it.  We can deduce that from the way He spoke of just one man who died over 2,500 years ago.  It is another proof of God’s desire to “relate” to us.  It should move us to want to “relate” to Him.