Bragging On The Shepherd

Bragging On The Shepherd

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

 
Have you ever been in the habit of praying the same prayer over and over again?
You’ve said that prayer as a child and it’s so familiar to you that it just rolls off the tongue. It can seem robotic and maybe this is how we read Psalm 23.
 
Many of us know this Psalm and can quote it quickly— the words fly past our lips. The author, David, practically writes this Psalm like a young boy bragging about how awesome his Father is. Let’s look at this Psalm from his perspective.
 
He says that the Shepherd is always there to protect him, lead him, restore him, and He’s concerned with his needs. He’s nothing without God, and God inspires David to articulate his view of Him.
 
Do we think of God in this way? Some might feel ashamed of Him because standing  up for Christ means saying something or doing something that makes us uncomfortable from time to time. You don’t see that in David. He’s bursting with pride because to him that relationship with the Shepherd is like no other. Today let’s humbly bow in thanksgiving and praise the perfect shepherd.
“I Wish The Church…”

“I Wish The Church…”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

  • “…Cared More About The Lost!” (But, when did I last invite someone to church or invite someone to study the Bible?)
  • “…Checked On The Sick And Shut In.” (But, when did I last make a call or visit to them?)
  • “…Was Friendly!” (But, do I talk to, welcome, and make feel at home visitors and more than my close circle of friends?)
  • “…Did A Better Job With The Singing.” (But, do I sing out, show enthusiasm, and participate with my whole heart?)
  • “…Invested More In The Youth.” (But, am I doing all I can to help them grow, from my attitude toward the church to my personal investment in them?)
  • “…Was Active!” (But, do I volunteer when help is needed, prioritizing it over the things of the world?)
  • “…Was Growing.” (But, how invested am I in being an ambassador for Christ, 2 Cor. 5:20?)

So often, we talk about “the church” in a passive, third-person way. We are critical of her leaders, her activities (or lack thereof), and her members as if we are detached observers. The picture of the early church was of individuals who were personally invested. We are overcome by the consumer mindset of the culture when we sit back and take shots at the perceived shortcomings of our local congregation. Look at the New Testament Christians. Barnabas didn’t fret about how stingy or discouraging the church was; He was generous and encouraging (Acts 4:36-37). Stephen didn’t express his frustration at the church’s lack of courage and conviction; He literally preached himself to death (Acts 6-7). Dorcas didn’t wring her hands at how uncaring and detached the church was; She continually did deeds of kindness and charity (Acts 9:36). They may have been extraordinary in their actions, but they were just “regular members of the church.” They were the church. They didn’t sit in judgment of her. Why? They were too busy working to build her up. When I am tempted to play armchair analyst, I should begin with my own faithfulness and involvement. There is so much the Lord expects me to do to help the church. My investment may cause others to be grateful and excited to be a part of the church! I can most influence me (2 Cor. 13:5)! 

On January 20, 1961, in John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address, he uttered the famous line, “Ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.” Here is the very ending of the address: “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.” If that is true of a citizen’s mindset of a nation, how much more a Christian’s mindset in that holy nation, the church? 

The Invitation Song

The Invitation Song

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

Some of the most powerful messages are often delivered through song. If you want to really show someone how much you love them, you write a song. If you want to tell others about yourself or your family, you write a song. Songs are a great way to get across a message in a powerful way. In the church we sing songs for several reasons.
 
Paul tells us in Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
‭We sing to help the word of God dwell in our hearts. We sing to teach each other. We sing admonish and correct. We sing out of thankfulness for God. Since there are so many different reasons we sing, each song has a different message. Some are encouraging, some are reminders, and some are a plea to the sinner. We call some of these “invitation songs. ” And usually these are sung after a lesson as a way to encourage lost souls to respond and return.
 
“Though Your Sins Be As Scarlet” identifies a major problem that has plagued man since the Garden of Eden, our sin. The choices we make, the way we live, has stained us. This song calls to our attention the sin problem of man. This song is based on Isaiah 1:18, “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
This invitation song shows us the blessing that Christ has given. Though we’ve been stained by sin, they shall become like snow. Pure, holy, undefiled. If you’ve ever spilled grape juice on a white T-shirt, that’s the imagery.
 
Sin has ruined our hearts, but Christ is the perfect stain remover. He is able to remove every spot and blemish. Rom. 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Do we really think that we could live up to the glory of God himself? Could we have fixed this sin problem on our own? No. And we sing this song to remind us of WHO our solution is.
 
Through the gift of Christ they will be removed. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.
 
On an old rugged cross Jesus paid it all, and all to him I owe. I come just as I am, but I surrender all. Will you cherish the old rugged cross? Do you recognize the blessing and the blood that has washed us whiter than snow?
 
 
One of my favorite preachers delivering the invitation in Lexington, KY (2018)
A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

There are just too many voices in the world today muddying the waters when it comes to 21st century Christianity. In fact the term, “Christianity,” doesn’t mean much the average person. In fact, the average person will most likely have several friends who carry this title and they know based on their morals— they’re not really different. Sadly it’s a description that doesn’t describe much, other than an individual that believes in God. That’s really it! This word has been tragically stripped of what we understand to be the most rewarding life you could possibly live. There’s simply no higher calling, there is no greater purpose in life, and you just can’t beat the retirement plan. 

Now let’s do something to help the seeking world out. 

Let’s make it our priority to understand the church in such a way that we can simplify her mission and her origin. 

Here are two terms that will help:

  1. The term “restoration” may sound similar to “reformation”, but the two terms could not be more contrary to each other. Restoration is an attempt to return the church to the pattern we find in the New Testament, while reformation is a changing of what currently exists. It’s a modification or addition which creates something new entirely. The Old Testament is filled with the pleas of the prophets for the people to restore their relationships with God. 

    2.  The definition of the word “denomination” is evidence that restoration is not only possible, but needed. Denomination, in the religious world, describes a branch off of an  original. Any branch coming off of the New Testament church, is simply not it. 

Five Facts About The Lord’s Church 

  1. The New Testament church was established by Jesus, not Luther, Henry the 8th, Calvin, Smith, or Wesley
  2. The New Testament church was established in Jerusalem, not Oxford, London, or Amsterdam
  3. In New Testament times people were told to believe in Jesus, repent of their sins,  be baptized by a total immersion of water, and to live faithfully (Acts 2:38, 16:30-31, 2:16, Mark 16:15-16; Romans 6:1-4; Revelation 2:10) 
  4. Christians in the New Testament met on the first day of the week to partake in the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7)
  5. The New Testament church was a united church, while denominationalism is, by its very nature, divided. 

If the church you are a part of can say the same, you can be confident that it is the church that Jesus established. If this is not what the church you are a part of teaches and practices, then perhaps this will be some information that will help you begin a life-changing search to find God’s will for your life. 

 
The Prodigal Cat 

The Prodigal Cat 

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Biblical Bytes

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Brent Pollard

Our beloved cat, June-bug, returned home recently. He had been absent for over a year. We assumed he was dead. Yet, the “power of love” drew him back to the house. Oh, no, it was not his love for us. He could sense a female that has entered estrus. And that is why he is back. Will he stick around? We shall see. However, I cannot help but notice the toll his “prodigal living” has had on him in the interim. Before his departure, he began having irritation in his left eye. It wept a lot. It would sometimes seal his eye shut. He now looks like a human with ptosis (i.e., drooping eyelid). Frankly, that is how I was able to identify him since his coat is darker and matted.  

Otherwise, he seems as if he has eaten well. He was always a good hunter. The earlier generations of cats that took up with us were better hunters. These newer cats have become so accustomed to humans providing food that I wonder how well they would fare if on their own. The saddest part of June-bug’s return is noting how feral he has become. Previously, June-bug liked when we pet him. Now, he will not come near us, despite acting as if he still faintly recalls us. 

Have you ever encountered a brother or sister now living prodigally? It can be heartbreaking, correct? Sometimes the toll sin has had upon them is obvious. Hard-living might make them look haggard and aged beyond their years. The Bible paints this picture as well. What happened to the “original” prodigal? Given his hunger, we might infer he had become gaunt. He was so desperate that he was willing to eat pig slop (Luke 15.14-16). His poverty likely reduced his apparel to rags. What sight must he have presented to the awaiting father?  

And what does Solomon elsewhere say of the drunkard?  

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long over wine, Those who go to taste mixed wine.” (Proverbs 23.29-30 NASB1995) 

“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” (Proverbs 20.1 NASB1995) 

Yes, sin can often devastate on this side of eternity as well. Things like substance abuse will alter a person’s demeanor, cause them to injure themselves while in a stupor, or pick fights with others.  

Beyond the physical difficulties encountered because of sin, we must likewise consider the psychological toll, particularly guilt. The psalmist refers to a sinner’s inability to stand within the assembly of the righteous (Psalm 1.5). While their lifestyle would strip them of their desire to be within the Christian community, their guilt would not permit them to endure such association for long. Seeing others striving to walk in the Light(1 John 1.7) would remind them from whence they had fallen.  

Yes, a prodigal can be a sad sight to beyond, whether a cat or especially a human being. The Father shows us how to treat those humans who have strayed. Once they have repented, we show them love and acceptance (Luke 15.20-24). It is the extension of the same grace we would all hope to receive under similar circumstances. It is not our place to punish the erring brother or sister for the time they have wasted in the far country of sin. We need to create a pleasant home environment in which they will desire to remain. Then we can all enter into the joys of our Master.  

“Toying With God All My Life”

“Toying With God All My Life”

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

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Neal Pollard

It was such a beautiful moment yesterday morning. A brother in Christ from our area who has been attending with us for a few months responded to the invitation. As Kevin and I took his confession, he spoke of sins in his past that fill him with regret. Though he was raised in the church, he has been away from the Lord for a long time. Among the things he expressed from his tender heart, he confessed, “Ive been toying with God all my life.” His point was simple. He felt doubt about God’s existence and concern for him, and it led him to make regrettable choices. But, recently, his study of God’s word and fellowship with God’s people led him to see how real God is and how much he needs Him in his life. 

I wonder how many of us could confess that, at times and in ways, we’ve toyed with God in some way. Perhaps we appealed to Him only when we were in trouble that we couldn’t solve ourselves. Maybe we promised Him we’d be faithful if only He’d give us something we specifically prayed for or thought we needed, and when we got it we broke our promise. It might have been a time or season when we “played church” and acted the role of Christian in the building but acted like the world when around them. 

This is not a tendency that started in our current generation. It is a human tendency. Bible writers exposed such thinking. God tells Ezekiel, “But as for you, son of man, your fellow citizens who talk about you by the walls and in the doorways of the houses, speak to one another, each to his brother, saying, ‘Come now and hear what the message is which comes forth from the Lord.’ They come to you as people come, and sit before you as My people and hear your words, but they do not do them, for they do the lustful desires expressed by their mouth, and their heart goes after their gain. Behold, you are to them like a sensual song by one who has a beautiful voice and plays well on an instrument; for they hear your words but they do not practice them” (Ezek. 33:30-32). This is similar to what Isaiah wrote (29:13) and Matthew (15:8-9) and Mark (7:6,7) quote. It’s playing with God to speak as though we desire His Word and even listen to it but be driven by desires and a heart that practice something different (cf. Jas. 1:21-25). 

I need to have the good heart our dear brother expressed on Sunday morning. One who wants others to see and know how much He believes in God, loves Him, and intends to serve Him. May we all keep our hearts tender to God’s Word and let its power do its surgical work in removing what doesn’t belong and moving us to act on what does belong. 

Why I Love The Church

Why I Love The Church

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard

I love the Church because…
  1. God loved me enough to establish it.
  2. Jesus loves the Church.
  3. The Church loves Jesus.
  4. The Church is a family.
  5. The Church is filled with true friendships.
  6. The Church is a source of encouragement.
  7. I’ve seen firsthand the comfort that the Church provides.
  8. The Church is considerate of others.
  9. The Church is a place for the broken.
  10. The Church is a place for the weak.
  11. In the Church I belong to God.
  12. The Church has perfected potlucks.
  13. Jesus is the Head of the Church.
  14. The Church is the unified body of Christ.
  15. The Church helps me to be a better Christian.
  16. The Church helps to show me my purpose in life.
  17. I’ve met people that have changed my life.
  18. The Church helps me love God more.
  19. The Church is motivated.
  20. The Church reminds me that this world is not my home.
  21. The Church shows me the power of song.
  22. The Church shows me the power of the Gospel.
  23. The Church creates a bond that is impossible to find anywhere else.
  24. The Church shows me how amazing grace really is.
  25. The Church is a place of spiritual support.
  26. The Church is a place of physical comfort.
  27. The Church is a place of emotional healing.
  28. I leave every service feeling renewed.
  29. The Church helps me interact better with people.
  30. The Church at times helps me practice patience.
  31. The Church is a reminder that we are equal in Christ.
  32. The Church is a place filled with servants.
  33. The Church helps bring out the best in me.
  34. I want to go to Heaven.
  35. The Church helps me glorify God.
  36. The Church is the family I worship God with.
  37. The Church is exciting!
  38. The Church is where I belong.
  39. I can’t imagine a life without the Church.
  40. The Church puts my focus where it belongs; on God, and other people.
  41. The Church is selfless.
  42. The Church is life changing.
  43. God wants me to love the Church.
  44. The Church makes you feel needed.
  45. The Church makes me more considerate of others.
  46. I want to be a part of God’s plan.
  47. The Church helps me be closer to my physical family.
  48. The Church gives me memories that will last a lifetime.
  49. The Church is filled with people that I will never have to say goodbye to.
  50. The Church of Christ helps me keep heaven in view.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13
 
 
Photo credit: Grant Wilson
A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

A Simple Way To Identify The Church Jesus Started 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

 

There are just too many voices in the world today muddying the waters when it comes to 21st Century Christianity. In fact, the term “Christianity” doesn’t mean much to the average person. In fact, the average person will most likely have several friends who carry this title and they know based on their morals— they’re not really different. Sadly it’s a description that doesn’t describe much, other than an individual that believes in God. This word has been tragically stripped of what is the most rewarding life you could possibly live. There’s simply no higher calling, there is no greater purpose in life, and you just can’t beat the retirement plan.

Now let’s do something to help the seeking world out.

Let’s make it our priority to understand the church in such a way that we can simplify her mission and her origin.

Here are two terms that will help

  1. The term “restoration” may sound similar to “reformation”, but the two terms could not be more contrary to each other. Restoration is an attempt to restore the church to the pattern we find in the New Testament, while reformation is a reforming of what currently exists. It’s a modification or addition which creates something new entirely. The Old Testament is filled with the pleas of the prophets for the people to restore their relationships with God.

2.  The definition of the word “denomination” is evidence that restoration is not only    possible, but needed. Denomination, in the religious world, describes a branch off of an  original. Any branch coming off of the New Testament church, is simply not it.

Five Facts About The Lord’s Church

  1. The NT church was established by Jesus, not Luther, Henry the 8th, Calvin, Smith, or Wesley
  2. The NT church was established in Jerusalem, not Oxford, London, or Amsterdam
  3. In NT times people were told to believe in Jesus, repent of their sins,  be baptized by a total immersion of water, and to live faithfully (Acts 2:38, 16:30-31, 2:16, Mark 16:15-16)
  4. Christians in the NT met on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper, Acts 20:7
  5. The NT church was a united church, while denominationalism is, by it’s very nature, divided.

If the church you are a part of can say the same, you can be confident that it is the church that Jesus established. If this is not what the church you are a part of teaches and practices, then perhaps this will be some information that will help you begin a life changing search to find God’s will for your life.

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When My Love For Christ Grows Weak

When My Love For Christ Grows Weak

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

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Carl Pollard

A problem that each one of us as Christians face at one time or another, a problem that has been around since the establishment of the church, is the problem of a weakened love for Christ. This problem results from family crisis, various diseases, the death of a loved one despite our fervent prayers and crying out to God, different forms of persecution, or watching as a respected Christians loses his faith in God.
As Christians we will experience problems that will cause our love for Christ to fail.
Our faith and love for Christ are tied together as one. If you lose your faith, love is weakened and vice versa. The song, “When My Love for Christ Grow Weak” says this, “See His anguish, see His faith, Love triumphant still in death.” Love can be restored and faith can be strengthened if we would just dwell on the sacrificial love of Christ.
Since love is strengthened by increasing our faith in Christ, notice Revelation 2. The church in Ephesus had done well in many areas. They were hard working, patient, upright (they hated evil), noble minded (tested the claims of false prophets), they knew how to deal with evil men, and rather than growing weary, they persevered and had endurance (3). But they had one major issue…their love for Christ had grown weak.
Verse 4 tells us they were living the life of a Christian, but totally devoid of love. The Ephesians were doing a lot of good things, but out of obligation and duty rather than being properly motivated by a love for Christ. While they appeared to be righteous on the surface, they had no relationship with God. They were going through the motions but it was all done without love.
Sadly this is a problem that many face in the church today. They experience hardship and lose their love. They continue to live as a Christian out of duty and because it’s the “right thing to do.” Since the Ephesians fell into the same rut that we too can sometimes struggle with, it’s beneficial for us to look at what they were told to do in order to restore their relationship with Christ.
The solution is threefold. So let’s notice what we must do “when our love for Christ grows weak.”
Remember where you came from (Rev. 2:5). When our love for Christ grows weak, what must we do? Remember why you made the decision to become a Christian. Remember where you came from. A life filled with sin. A life devoid of hope. A time when you couldn’t call God your father. Remember the blessings of baptism. The sin that was wiped away. The relationship that was established with God, through Christ. Remember what you felt the moment you came out of the waters of baptism. The joy and relief in knowing that God now calls you HIS child. “When my love to Christ grows weak, When for deeper faith I seek, Then in thought I go to thee, Garden of Gethsemane.” Remember what makes our Christianity a reality. Remember what it cost for God to forgive your sin.
Repent (Rev. 2:5).  Metanoeson means “to change ones mind.” I want you to picture yourself in your car, you’re headed to lunch with the perfect restaurant picked out. As you’re getting closer, your wife says, “I’d rather go to Chick Fil A. Step 1, your wife has changed her mind about where she wants to eat. And so…Step 2, you turn the car around, you change directions and head to Chick Fil A…making the right call to keep your wife happy. That, is repentance. “A change of mind that leads to a change of direction.” The Ephesians were told to first, remember where they came from, and then to repent. Change direction, go back to a time when they had both good deeds and a love for a christ. A change of mind, from heartless service to love filled devotion.
Return and “Do the things you did at first” (Rev. 2:5). When Our Love For Christ Grows Weak, return to the way we were living before sin ruined our relationship with God. We must confess (admit the wrong) to God, and to each other (James. 5:17). Acknowledge the presence of sin. And change, even if it costs us. Each one of us can remember the times where our Christianity was strong and growing, but since we are human, it’s easy to become:
 Complacent (feeling satisfied with where we are, with no motivation to grow or change). Depressed (with current circumstances or personal trials).
Distracted (by work, family, hobbies, friends).
Emotionless (feeling so overwhelmed with sin that we just give up, lose hope).
There’s a cure for each one of these problems. Remember Christ. Dwell on the love that God has for each one of us.
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