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resolutions resolve Uncategorized

Resolutions Reinforcements–#7

Neal Pollard

Already, we have looked at six reinforcements for our resolutions: (1) Specificity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#1), (2) Prayer (Resolutions Reinforcements–#2), (3) Tenacity (Resolutions Reinforcements–#3), (4) Hope (Resolutions Reinforcements–#4), (5) Self-Control (Resolutions Reinforcements—#5), and (6) Accountability (Resolutions Reinforcements–#6). I’d like to close this series of articles with one last tool of support. To keep our resolutions rolling, may I suggest “reading.”

Especially if you are not a reader, that may sound like drudgery. However, consider the fact that God thought it important enough to have His will and thoughts written down in a book. Certainly, the Bible will help shape, encourage, and assist us in every noble goal. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” How do we know what God considers to fall within these categories? We must read His Word (cf. Psa. 119:105).

Whatever your goals, there are probably plenty of books devoted to the subject (cf. Ecc. 12:12). If you have financial, physical, relational, or spiritual goals, seek out books by those of proven ability in those areas. Perhaps you can ask people who are excelling in the areas where you wish to improve what books they’ve read and would recommend. Some time ago when he still lived at home, my son Dale passed along a book one of our deacons, Scott Phillips, shared with him on finances, entitled Rich Dad, Poor Dad. One of my elders, Dean Murphy, recently recommended The Speed of Trust for effective leadership. Rick Randall, a faithful member here, recommended a faith-building resource called The Truth Project. Just yesterday, Mike Vestal encouraged me to read a book by Gary McIntosh on church growth that was relevant to a goal I have regarding Bear Valley. Connect yourself to readers in your congregation and your circle of friends.

The point is, resolutions are about making improvements. Often, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. Usually, you’ll have to spit out some bones. Always, you can mine at least some nugget from a book on a subject of your interest that can help you grow. I encourage you to “study up” on ways to maintain and shore up your resolve. Filter it all through the lens of Scripture. Then, most importantly, don’t be a forgetful hearer but rather a doer (cf. Jas. 1:22).

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resolutions resolve Uncategorized

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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resolutions resolve self-control self-denial Uncategorized

Resolutions Reinforcements—#5

Neal Pollard

If this is not one of your resolutions, it is a part of all of them. It is almost a dirty word, if we ponder what it demands. “Self-control.” We call it will power, self-discipline, or restraint, but it invokes those difficult life principles like commitment, duty, and drive. It’s doing a little bit more of what it takes or doing a little less of what you want in order to reach a goal (paying off debt, 10 more minutes in the workout, passing up cake, choosing Bible reading over social media or TV, etc.). The Christian understands that God has called him or her to a life of self-control. In what is really God-control—submitting our hearts and lives to God’s will—we are to live lives that call for self-denial and lead to discipleship. Our resolutions probably take that central truth into consideration.

The word used in the New Testament can seem daunting. The word ἐγκράτεια (enkrateia) means “to exercise complete control over one’s desires and actions” (Louw-Nida 750).  It is daunting because it is exhausting (“exercise”),  exhaustive (“complete”), and extensive (“control over desires and actions”). It leaves no part of me unexplored and unchecked. It takes in the internal and the external.

Yet, it is a mark of the redeemed. You find it in the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). You find it in the Christian virtues, which speak of all that is gained or lost depending on whether those things are incorporated into our lives (2 Pet. 1:6). You find it attached to judgment and eternity (Acts 24:25). So, it is something God calls for in our lives anyway.

Pray for self-control. Identify the saboteurs of your self-control and eliminate, avoid, and address them. Be intentional, thinking specifically about the area where self-control is lacking (tongue, temper, tastebuds, etc.) and considering ways to improve there. Acknowledge times when you have succeeded or are succeeding and appreciate how good that feels.

What follows the exercise of self-control is almost always tangible results. Be patient. If you stumble, get back up and keep trying. At the end of that road is success!

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resolutions resolve Uncategorized

Resolutions Reinforcements–#4

Neal Pollard

Well, it has been nearly a week. Can you remember what your resolutions were? The holidays are over and you’re back in your routine. Life happens and it can eclipse our view of the better self we intended to be. Hopefully, this can be a reminder to regroup and maybe rededicate yourself to those well-thought-out resolutions. One thing that can help is “hope.”

Hope in the Bible is “the looking forward to something with some reason for confidence respecting fulfillment” (BDAG 319).  Now, with resolutions, we can have a hope that the goals we’ve established can be reached. But in harmony with an earlier reinforcement, we can have a hope grounded in God’s ability to strengthen us and providentially provide for every legitimate goal we have. If our resolutions will make us better Christians and servants in the kingdom, there’s great reason to have hope.

Make sure your goals are reasonable. Otherwise, you cannot have much hope of achieving them. If you have $100,000 in debt and your goal is to be debt-free next month, you won’t have hope to help you. Have intermediate goals that will get you from where you are now toward where you want to be.

You read about hope not only in both Testaments, but in all the different time periods of Bible history. Job longed for it during the early days of earth (Job 7:6). So did Naomi in the period of the Judges (Ruth 1:13). David spoke of it (1 Chronicles 29:15). Hundreds of years later, near the end of recorded Old Testament history, Ezra (10:2) and Esther (9:1) did, too. It features prominently in Israel’s song book (cf. Psa. 42:11). The New Testament frequently talks about it–some 73 times! It is a central driver in people’s lives.  Lean on it to keep you on track and moving toward your goals. Don’t lose hope!

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resolutions resolve Uncategorized

Resolutions Reinforcements–#3

Neal Pollard

Grambling State’s Shakyla Hill pulled off a rare feat in basketball last night, achieving a “quadruple double” (meaning at least ten of four statistical categories–points, steals, rebounds, blocks, and/or assists). It was the first time a woman had done that in Division One in a quarter century and only the fourth all-time. There have only been five official quadruple doubles in NBA History. Suffice it to say, it doesn’t happen much. How does it happen? Of course, there are innate gifts like speed, size, and ability, but there surely had to be tenacious effort, too.

In keeping our resolutions, there must be tenacity. We should ask ourselves every day, “How badly do I want to achieve this goal?” The New Testament word for that is perseverance, a word found 22 times there (The Greek word ὑπομονή is found 32 times, also translated “patient” and “endurance” a few times). It means, “The capacity to hold out or bear up in the face of difficulty” (BDAG, 1039).  Sometimes, it seems effortless to conquer a matter. Other times, it can feel almost impossible.  Factoring in God (as we mentioned in part two), we can have confidence that He can strengthen us to hold out and bear up whatever the challenge. Scripture tells us the outcome of perseverance:

  • Bearing fruit (Luke 8:15).
  • Eternal life (Rom. 2:7).
  • Proven character (Rom. 5:3-4).
  • Successful waiting (Rom. 8:25).
  • Hope (Rom. 15:4).
  • Joyously giving thanks (Col. 1:11).
  • Being a man or woman of God (1 Tim. 6:1).
  • Receiving what is promised (Heb. 10:36).
  • Running the Christian race (Heb. 12:1).
  • Being perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (Jas. 1:3-4).
  • Seeing the good outcomes of the Lord (Jas. 5:11).
  • Useful and fruitful (cf. 2 Pet. 1:6-8).
  • Not growing weary (Rev. 2:3).
  • Greater deeds (Rev. 2:19).
  • A blessing in death (Rev. 14:12-13).

Now, apply this to your resolutions for 2018. There may be missteps along the way, a temporary loss of self-discipline, a sin or mistake, or a poor judgment. No matter! Resolve  to hold out and bear up, no matter how hard the task. You will be glad you did, and you will find it rewarding.

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resolutions Uncategorized

Resolutions Reinforcements–#1

Neal Pollard

Did you make any resolutions for 2018? Dan Diamond cited a statistic I’ve often found, that over 40% of Americans make them every year and only about 8% succeed (Forbes, 1/1/13). Websites like statisticsbrain.com break it down into all kind of categories, but they amount to body and soul, material and spiritual. If you are among those who have made resolutions for this year, you probably find yours also fitting into those two categories–weight loss, financial health, relationships, and spiritual growth, for example. With the statistical odds against us, we’re going to need help, right? I thought I’d devote some attention to things we can do to reach our goals. It certainly will raise my own accountability, and hopefully it can provide some practical encouragement for you, too.

The first resolutions reinforcement I suggest is “specificity.” Instead of saying, “I will be a better person,” “I will read my Bible more,” “I will get out of debt,” or “I will eat healthier,” take some time to articulate some specific goals. These general ambitions are great, but the more nebulous they are the harder they are to quantify and track. For example, one of my goals is to lose 20 pounds. While I’ve lost those 20 pounds several times through the years, I realize it’s not good for my health for me to carry them around again. With that specific goal, I have a plan. It works whenever I utilize it. It is neither complex or gimmicky. I will count calories (I have an app that helps me track that).

I have taken some time to do that with five specific goals for my year. I wrote each of them down, stated specifically. Each is measurable. My aim is to pull that little list out at least daily and see where I am with each. There are some sensitive, uncomfortable items on that list, but when I revisit it those are the ones I want to achieve the most. That piece of paper allows no justification, excuse-making, or equivocation. It just stares right back at me, ironclad if only in ink.

May I encourage you to pray about this. Here is my prayer for today regarding my goals: “Father, please help me to take specific steps today, tomorrow, and every day to reach these goals. Help me to achieve them so that I can better serve and glorify you.” Here is a reminder of something God has said to us: “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Prov. 16:3). 

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convictions cross crucifixion opportunity Uncategorized unity

The Convictions Of The Lost

Neal Pollard

The lost are convicted, too. Don’t let anybody say they’re not. Some of the strongest-held beliefs, some of the most fully-persuaded minds, and some of the most determined hearts are attached to lost individuals. Even in the Bible, one finds the deepest rooted convictions in the heart of the lost sinner. If one wants to find a people wholly dedicated, he should take a trip into Noah’s world (see Gen. 6:5). If one wants to find a people completely set in a given pursuit, he should visit with King Solomon about the sons of men (Ecc. 8:11).

We should abhor rather than admire the lifestyle of the lost. This statement, if it has ever been true, applies to the people who spread themselves around Pilate’s judgment seat. Grounded in their hatred and jealousy of Jesus, the chief priests, the elders, and the persuaded multitude had as their singular focus the destruction of Jesus. They wanted Him gone, and any way they could do it they were willing to try. The rulers of the people had tried to ridicule, embarrass, trap, frustrate, tempt and discourage Him, but they had failed. One would think that, after three years of trying, they would have given up on their task. But, they were convicted.

The mob who finally “got rid of Jesus” (actually, they fulfilled God’s eternal plan for their and our salvation, and they did not foresee the resurrection) was a crowd we could learn a few lessons.

THEY WERE UNITED (Mat. 27:22). Pilate asked them what he should do with Jesus. All of them said, “Let Him be crucified.” No dissension is recorded by Matthew. Together, they forced a governor to submit to their wishes. How unfortunately that they were united to do evil.

When the righteous are united under the proper standard (Eph. 4:13), “how good and how pleasant it is…” (Psa. 133:1). Think of the untold good Christ’s disciples can do under the banner of brotherly love (Heb. 13:1), outdone only by our love, devotion and obedience to the Lord (Heb. 5:9).

THEY WERE DECISIVE (Mat. 27:21,22). There were no long committee meetings. There were no endless business meetings. They did not vacillate in this moment of decision. Pilate knew who they wanted crucified and who they wanted released. Though iniquitous, their decision was most expedient for their stated goal.

The Lord’s church in most places does an adequate job of planning its local work. Alas, in some cases, their best laid plans get lost somewhere between the forming and fulfilling. No congregation wants to rashly enter any endeavor–whether it be picking up support of an extra missionary or the execution of a needed program or plan. Yet, at times, the church can be overcautious and ponderous in discharging their responsibilities. Surely God was thrilled at the decisive way the disciples in the early church mobilized, spread the gospel, and reached the lost. The book of Acts is the model of decisiveness for today’s church.

THEY ACCEPTED RESPONSIBILITY (Mat. 27:25). Pilate wanted to know who was going to take moral responsibility for killing the just Jesus (24). Seemingly without hesitation, “All the people…said, His blood be on us, and on our children.” They collectively pointed the finger of guilt at themselves. Later, when Peter’s Pentecost preaching pricked their hearts, in a different way they took responsibility for this heinous acts (Acts 2:36-37).

Every person must take responsibility for his actions. Everyone must reap what he, individually, has sown (Gal. 6:7-8). In the congregational setting, the eldership must accept responsibility for what goes on among its members. When congregations individually begin to accept responsibility for themselves, theretofore avoided subjects will again be addressed courageously and frequently by the pulpit, eldership, and classroom.

We do not admire those responsible for slaying the sinless Savior. They were callous-hearted wretches darkened by the night of sin. However, they teach us the power of a united people ready and eager to stand accountable for what they decided to do. Churches will grow who follow God’s blueprint for His kingdom with enthusiasm and conviction. Let us maintain our convictions in “well doing” (Gal. 6:9).

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heart resentment

Burying Your Resentment

Neal Pollard

Linda Sides, wife of one of the preachers at Sixth Avenue church of Christ in Jasper, Alabama, shared a startling picture with me that she took in a West Virginia cemetery.  The backstory, as much as is known, is interesting.  Apparently, a mother did not want to be cremated but her two daughters went against her wishes.  Another child, a son, had a gravestone made with this epitaph:  “IN MEMORY OF MY MOTHER IVA PRITT WHO PASSED AWAY JANUARY 1, 1978, AND TO HER TWO DAUGHTERS WHO WENT AGAINST HER WISHES. MAY THEY BURN IN HELL. ALWAYS THINKING OF YOU. D.”  We don’t know what kind of relationship the siblings had with each other or with their mother prior to the matriarch’s death.  What we know is that the grudge held by the son has been memorialized for at least 37 years through the engraving on that marker.  By this time, perhaps all the children have died, too.  Where they went for eternity is unknown, but it’s quite possible this man went to his own grave carrying the burden of bitterness and resentment.

Perhaps few have carried their vendettas with such graphic vehemence as Iva’s son, but I have known quite a few whose verbal clues reveal as virulent a strain of visceral irritation.  In the Bible, Herodias was said to have “had a grudge against him (John) and wanted to put him to death…” (Mark 6:19).  She was living in sin and righteous John preached against it. Her response was to feel resentment for what he had done.  Sometimes, an accurate message is received with absolute acrimony. A different Greek word is used in James 3:14 “pertaining to feeling resentful” (Louw and Nida, 1996, n/p).  In reading James, this is a feeling that they may have had toward the world but more likely against their own brethren.  How many churches have had works stalled and stopped, have experienced an atmosphere of severe tension, or have even been split because of unresolved bitterness and resentment?

With resentment being so harmful to ourselves and others, how can we bury it?  First, let it go.  This is an intentional exercise and will not occur without conscious mental effort and energy. Read Ephesians 4:31-32.  Second, give it to God. Stop carrying it and hand it to Him.  All cares can be safely transferred to His capable hands (1 Pet. 5:7).  Finally, mend fences.  Remember Paul’s encouragement that “if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18).  You are not accountable for the peace-breaking disposition of others, but you are “so far as it depends on you.”

Do you have any “headstones” to destroy?  Do you have hatchets to bury—including the handles?  Don’t waste any more time. Let it die and bury it!