Categories
peer pressure Psalms

I Dare You To Jump Off This Wall

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

carl pic

Carl Pollard

Peer pressure was a topic that I was taught a lot as a teen. Many have the false assumption that only teens struggle with peer pressure. While it is true that as a young person it is easier to be persuaded, adults and mature Christians can fall for peer pressure just as easily.
While there are many personal illustrations I could use of times that I fell for peer pressure and did something dumb, I’m not going to use them because I like my job at Hebron. But, there is one that I will tell because it’s a great illustration on the power of peer pressure.
Back when I was 12 years old (I was young, perfect and innocent) I fell for peer pressure and I’ll never forget the life lesson that I was taught. At the Bear Valley church there was a wall outside that the teens would sit on and hang out. This wall was about 10 feet tall and at the bottom was a bunch of rocks and bushes. I remember watching all the teen guys jump off the wall and land in the bushes below. I wanted to jump off so bad, but I knew I’d get in huge trouble if I did. All the cool kids would go out after church and see who could do the coolest jump off this wall. I remember one of the guys saying, “This is how you prove you’re a man.” And so of course I had to prove I was a man. I didn’t want them to think that I was a chicken. So one evening after church I went and sat on top of the wall and got ready to jump. Everyone was watching and I knew there was no turning back. I sat on the wall for a good 15 minutes trying to build up the courage to jump off what seemed like a 30 foot drop. I finally took the plunge and jumped…and fell like a sack of rocks onto the drainage pipe below and broke it clean in half. A feeling of dread washed over me when I realized what I had done. One of the deacon’s kids ran and told his dad…who told the elders…who told my parents…who told me that I was grounded from going outside after church for the foreseeable future. Every Sunday and Wednesday I was forced to stay with my parents in the auditorium until we left. I learned a very valuable lesson that day. Peer pressure is dumb. And the only thing that you gain from it is trouble.
Being pressured to jump off a wall probably won’t ever happen to you, but there’s a choice that each one of us will have to make at some point in our lives. That’s the choice of who we will call our friends and companions. This choice will shape who we are, how we live, and where we will go in the next life. The foundation for this subject is built by looking at a comparison between the righteous and the wicked. We can build our character by choosing righteous company, but what does righteousness look like?
In Psalm 1, we are given this comparison. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers” (1). There is a progression of temptation laid out here: blessed is the man who…Walks not in the counsel of the ungodly (the one who sees the sin and keeps walking) Nor Stands in the path of sinners (sees the sin and stops to watch out of curiosity) Nor sits in the seat of the scoffers (sees the sin and sits with them to join in).
“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (2).  Rather than walking next to sin, standing with evil, and sitting with evil company, his delight is in God’s Word and not in the sin of his fellow man. This man is blessed because he chooses to mediate on the Law of the Lord rather than dwelling with those in sin.
“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (3). Once the righteous man has chosen God’s Word over sin, we are given the result of this choice. He’s healthy. He produces fruit. He’s well nourished. He’s blessed in what he sets out to accomplish. This happens as a result of choosing godliness over evil company.
“The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (4).  Those who choose evil deeds over God’s Word are worthless. They are described as chaff. Chaff is the husk on the outside of a wheat kernel. You can’t eat it, and it basically doesn’t do anything. You have to take it off before you can make anything with the wheat. How they would do this is they would throw it up in the air and it would seperate from the kernel and the wind would blow it away while the wheat would fall back down.
The wicked are useless to God. When it comes to choosing friends, we have just two choices. The righteous (that are blessed in what they do) or the wicked (the ones that are useless to God). The choice should be an easy one for us, and yet Christians will fail to make the right decision.
A piece of advice: Don’t jump off the wall. Choose to hang with those that are concerned for your well being. Choose the righteous friend that will look out for your soul.
jumper
Categories
church church (nature) church function influence Uncategorized

Dark Churches

Neal Pollard

I was intrigued by an article written by Janet Thompson of crosswalk.com. The eye-catching title asked, “Why Is The Church Going Dark?” She meant this literally. Her complaint was about the design of many auditoriums having dim lighting and being windowless, almost like a movie theatre or concert venue. She wondered if this was to reach a younger generation or to set a certain mood. 

While I prefer a well-lit room, there is a more significant concern. Jesus taught, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:14-16). His words have nothing to do with church building designs, LED lighting, or window sizes. Preaching to His disciples, Jesus wants us to know that those reflecting His light cannot be hidden, but shine in such a way that others will see our good works and glorify God. 

  • Dark churches are situated in neighborhoods that know nothing about them.
  • Dark churches are so indistinct that the world can see no difference between themselves and those churches. 
  • Dark churches have no vision or plan to fulfill God’s purpose for them.
  • Dark churches exist to assemble, but not much more.
  • Dark churches focus inwardly, but neither outwardly nor upwardly. 
  • Dark churches operate from fear and prefer the safe route, taking no risks and attempting only what they can produce.
  • Dark churches are disconnected from the Light of the world.

It is good for us to constantly challenge ourselves, when setting budgets, making plans, gauging our true priorities, or evaluating the leadership or the pulpit. Are we doing what will help us be “Light-Bearers” or what will cause us to be “Dark Churches”? What an important question! Our actions determine the answer. 

dark churches

Categories
Christian living evangelism example Uncategorized

A GREAT FISHERMAN

By: A blessed fish

Let me tell you about the greatest fisherman I have ever known.

He has always found success at his favorite fishing hole. A special place where the inlet was fruitful, and many fish loved to be caught. His technique is simple. A welcoming lure. A handshake, a hug and a smile. Just to let you know you’re wanted.

He will always catch-n-release and the fish always feel better for the experience. Many wide eyed and spiritually young fish will enter the inlet, hoping that someone would catch them and show them the kind of love this great fisherman offers. He never judges a fish – their size, beauty, wealth or position. He only lets them know how glad he is to see them at the inlet.

His success is solely based on persistence, perseverance and patience. Three times a week you can always count on him being right there at the inlet. Waiting for the opportunity to hook’em and hold’em. He always makes every fish feel welcome and wanted.

He knows every fish by name. If he thinks a fish has drifted off down steam, he will go in search, armed with a tackle box full of Christian love and do his best to bring them back to the inlet. Not for him, but for their sake and for God’s sake.

He hooked this fish over 11 years ago. My wife led me to the inlet. But, he hooked me and let me know that I was welcome here. He helped save this soul for eternity.

I think he is getting tired now, but few may notice.  So many years of fishing, but he is still there almost every Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. I think he wants to share his favorite inlet with others who share his passion. Man, woman, or child, he wants us to join him. We don’t have to wait. We don’t have to be assigned the duty. We just need to step into the water and follow his lead. There is plenty of room at the inlet. Let’s all join this fisherman at the Bear Valley inlet and make sure every fish that enters knows they are wanted and welcome.

The great fisherman’s name is Clint and this fish will always love him.

Mathew 4:19-20

And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

———————————————

 NEAL’S NOTE: This was submitted to me by someone who wants to remain anonymous. Truer, more fitting words could not be spoken about one of the most special people any of us have ever known. We’re very blessed to have Clint Stephens as a member at Bear Valley, one of the men who was at the time a shepherd when I was hired. Enjoy!

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Clint “fishing” on a mission trip in Cambodia a few years ago. 
Categories
Christian living Christianity discipleship Uncategorized

The Demeanor Of A Disciple

 

Neal Pollard

Jesus had taught them about money (Luke 16), causing weak, new Christians to stumble (Luke 17), the coming of the church and the end of the world (Luke 17), and prayer (Luke 18). Now, He continues to teach but shifts His focus to attitude and outlook. In doing so, He leaves a pattern for the kind of perspective we should have if we are truly a follower of Jesus.

  • There is a pride to swallow (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus tells a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Both were in the temple. Both were praying. Both were addressing God. But, the prayer was different, the attitude was different, and the result was different. Jesus’ point in the parable is clear:  Instead of justifying ourselves and looking down on others, we need to keep our eyes open to the fact of our sinfulness. This will keep us from sinful pride and will keep us humble
  • There is a purity to seek (Luke 18:15-17). Jesus presents children as our example. We should receive the kingdom like them or we’ll be rejected. Children are innocent, receptive, trusting, and want to please—that’s got to be us, too!
  • There is a possession to seize (Luke 18:18-22). The rich young ruler seems exemplary. He came to Jesus (18), wanted Jesus to teach him (18), was respectful of Jesus (18), and was a moral person (20-21). But he knew he had a problem. Jesus knew he had a problem. His ultimate reaction was rejection. Do we ever let “stuff” keep us from spiritual health, from taking hold of the only thing that ultimately matters?
  • There is a principle to see (Luke 18:23-27). The Bible gives us a catalog of individuals who maintained deep spirituality while having deep pockets (cf. Abraham, Barzillai, Joseph of Arimathea, Barnabas, etc.). But Jesus makes a strong point that it’s exceedingly difficult for the rich (i.e., Americans) to enter heaven. Can the rich be saved? Yes! How? By having a proper attitude toward riches.
  • There is a prize to share (Luke 18:28-30). Jesus promises you cannot give up more than you will get by following Jesus. He promises reaping now and eternal life in the age to come. He’s saying it pays in the most important ways to follow Jesus.
  • There is a prophesy to satisfy (Luke 18:31-34). Jesus goes from telling His disciples what they stood to gain to talking about what He was going to lose for their sakes and ours. It is a thorough (31), costly (32-33), hopeful (33b), and hidden (34) fulfillment. Fulfilled prophesy is a vital way of proving Jesus as God’s Son. After the resurrection, they get it (Luke 24:44-47). Do we?
  • There is a pauper to serve (Luke 18:35-43). We end the chapter reading about Bartimaeus. He was in physical, financial, and spiritual need. But Jesus takes time to interact with him and gives us an example. Discipleship means ministering to the needy.

They had a strange contest in Deerfield Beach, Florida. The prize was a python worth $850. How did they determine the winner? They had a roach and worm-eating contest. Edward Archibald was among 20 to 30 contestants. He won, but soon after the contest ended, he fell ill and started to regurgitate. Eventually, he fell to the ground and was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. The cause of death was choking from arthropod body parts stuck in his airway. Archibald entered the contest to win the python and sell it for a profit. It was foolish and costly.  What are we trying so hard to get on this earth and what are we doing to get it? Jesus urges a proper outlook, one that is essential for His disciples. May we embrace that and act accordingly.

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Categories
Christian living distinct faith New Testament Christianity transformation

BEING SANCTIFIED WITHOUT BEING SHELTERED

Neal Pollard

Sanctification is one of those words used in more than one sense in the New Testament. It usually means the state of having been made holy (Rom. 6:19,22; 2 Th. 2:13; 1 Pt. 1:2), but it also is used in the sense of moral purity (see especially 1 Th. 4:2ff).  There is no doubt that God calls us to live pure, godly lives in Christ.  Because of this, we must watch the company we keep (cf. 1 Co. 15:33; 2 Co. 6:16ff).

How do we balance this need of keeping ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Js. 1:27) with the ability to reach out to those who are not followers of Christ?  David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, in their book UnChristian: What A New Generation Really Thinks About Christianity…And Why It Matters, discuss several factors that lead two generations—they call them “Mosaics” (born between 1984 and 2002) and “Busters” (born between 1965 and 1983)—to be more radically disconnected from and antagonistic toward “Christianity” as they perceive it.  One of the factors is their view that Christians’ lives are too sheltered for them to relate to it or find it desirable as a lifestyle choice.  We’re often thought of as living in our own world, providing too simplistic answers for our complex world, being ignorant and outdated, speaking our own, exclusive language, and our outrage and offense at being putdown and mocked by the world. I don’t know how this hits you, but perhaps it gives us an opportunity to examine ourselves.

The authors make a great point worthy of our consideration: “Christianity begins to shift its sheltered reputation when Christ followers are engaged, informed, and on the leading edge, offering a sophisticated response to the issues people face” (132).  The answer is not to replace congregational singing with rock concerts, recruit women, homosexual, or hard-edged shock-sermonizers who are foul-mouthed and irreverent to replace faithful gospel preachers, or the like. The answer is much more New Testament, more aligned with what the early church was.  The answer is “engagement.”

That means we engage people in the world.  We create opportunities or enter environments where “outsiders” (non-Christians) are to be found and we become salt and light, opening doors for the gospel through relationship-building and our genuine concern for people’s (often messy) lives.

It means we engage ourselves in “active faith.” We let faith have arms and legs. We move from being “believers” to being “doers” (Js. 1:22). We urge, encourage, and enable people to actively serve and live out faith in their daily lives.

It means we engage people like those Jesus and His disciples targeted.  That means the woman caught in adultery, Zaccheus, the lame man, Blind Bartemaeus, the 10 lepers, the Samaritan woman, and others like them.  We cannot forget what Paul said, that God has chosen the foolish, weak, base, nothing, and despised types to be His people (1 Cor. 1:27-28). The people God chose to be heirs are not the pretty, popular, influential, and wealthy (Js. 2:5).  The authors of UnChristian specify groups like “loners,” “self-injurers,” and “fatherless” people (135-137). We can add to that list, but people like these do not often top the “prospect lists” we might make.

Divine Truth must prevail and guide us in matters of salvation, our teaching, our personal morality, our worship, etc.  If it will guide us in reaching the world with the Word, we had better stop sequestering ourselves and our faith from a world in desperate need of the only message with eternal implications. Reflect on how Paul’s words apply to this, when he says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). We’re not just meant to prove that to each other. God wants us proving it to those outside of Christ.

Bear Valley youth feeding the homeless in downtown Denver
Categories
obedience works

Good Deeds

Neal Pollard

Good deeds don’t make the nightly news.  When a person serves or is nice to others, it rarely goes beyond the circle of occurrence.  That’s OK, because Jesus urges us, “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before me, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Mat. 6:1).

That probably wasn’t a problem for Titus, since the Cretans weren’t renowned for doing good deeds. In fact, a Cretan prophet said of his fellow-citizens, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Ti. 1:12). How would you like to live in a neighborhood or work on your job with such charming people as that? Paul calls them lying, wild, evil animals and slaves to their stomachs.

So, Paul spends some significant time in his letter talking about good deeds. There were some on Crete, particularly Jews, who by their deeds denied God and were “worthless for any good deed” (1:16). Thus, he urges Titus to show himself a pattern of good deeds (2:7). These deeds were not to earn salvation (3:5), but instead to please God. Notice how Paul emphasizes deeds in this letter.

  • Good Deeds Show The Right Example (2:7). I heard about a pair of identical twins.  One was a preacher and the other was a doctor. It was impossible to tell the two apart. A woman approached one of them and asked, “Are you the one that preaches?” He said, “No, ma’am. I’m the one who practices.” Paul tells Titus to show himself a pattern of good deeds in three areas: (1) Through sound teaching, (2) Through a serious life, and (3) Through his speech.
  • Good Deeds Show Where Our Passions Lie (2:14). Christ wants us zealous for good deeds. Wrongly directed zeal is destructive.  The Jewish zealots of the first-century helped bring about the demise of Jerusalem. But, a zealot with the right cause and conduct is powerful!  If we appreciate that we’ve been redeemed from every lawless deed (13), we’ll be zealous for good deeds. It should be natural for us, when saved from our sins, to be passionate about it to the point that our lives boil over with gratitude! That shows up in good deeds.
  • Good Deeds Show Our Faith In God (3:8). Paul urges Titus to share with all believers the need to be ready for every good deed (3:1). What will motivate us to do these good deeds? God’s mercy (3:5)! What will this motivate us to do? Share the good news (3:7-8). The world walks by sight and not by faith. Our challenge is to rise above that disbelief and show by our deeds our faith in the God who saved us from our sins! Our challenge is also to rise above the strife and division of those who profess to believe but whose lives yield evil deeds (3:9-11).  Doing good is broad and takes in the whole will of God for us, being all He wants us to be in marriage, parenting, the church, our neighborhood, the workplace, the nation, and in our relationships (cf. Titus 2). What will our good behavior in all these relationships tell others? Simply, that God is the guide of our lives and we put our trust in Him.
  • Good Deeds Meet Pressing Needs (3:14). Paul ends the letter by mentioning four Christians by name. The last two, Zenas and Apollos, would need financial help. Paul’s encouragement in Titus 3:14 seems directly related to this need. Whether it’s supporting missionaries or weekly giving, we are God’s hands on earth to help the needy when we give.

The old adage is true.  “Actions speak louder than words.” Paul writes of some who profess to know God, but in works deny Him. What a reminder that the Lord will not say, “Well said,” but “well done!”  Dorcas was a woman “full of good works and charitable deeds” (Acts 9:36). The woman with the Alabaster box did what she could (Mark 14:8).  What about us? What will be said about our deeds?

Categories
influence integrity

HOLY HILL DWELLERS

Neal Pollard

In Psalm 15, David shows us who is fit to be pleasing to God. I had a general physical and check up on my 30th and 40th birthdays.  I’ll have to say I was more pleased w/the results of the first one. Surprisingly, I found out that I should exercise more, eat less and weigh less.  While I didn’t like what I heard, I heard what I needed to hear. Though I’ve taken the exercise advise more seriously than the eating advice, I know that my physical health depends on my compliance.

Psalm 15 is a fitness test regarding our spiritual health. What does it take to please God in my morality and ethics?I find it interesting that what the Lord puts in His battery of tests is surprisingly difficult, and many good people, even basically good Christians, fail miserably at some of them. But if I don’t want to be shaken (5), I need to submit to this check up.

To dwell on the Lord’s holy hill, I need…

  • Properly working arms and legs (2-3).  The Lord sets forth an agility test for us.
  • We must walk with integrity (this refers to our character, a matter the entire book of Psalms begins with (1:1). We live so that the person we see in the mirror is one we can legitimately admire as wholesome, honest, and honorable).
  • We must work righteousness (this refers to our conduct, how we treat others and deal with them. Are we one people love or dread to see, and are we seen as a cutthroat, back-stabber, and ankle biter or as one who portrays the godly life of Matthew 5:16?).
  • A strong heart (2). No conditioning test is any good that doesn’t check the heart.  God requires truth in our innermost part (Ps. 51:6). A strong heart is a sincere one, one that makes us genuine and transparent. You won’t hear one thing in public but something contradictory in private, but you’ll get consistent truthfulness. One who tells you one thing but lacks sincerity and truth is not one who is going to pass the heart test.
  • A healthy mouth (3-4). Isn’t it amazing how much time God spends examining our mouths.  Even the heart test is connected to the mouth (2). An untamed tongue is an audacious, destructive, reckless, condemned thing (just read James 3:5-10).  Every one of us, to one degree or another, would be mortified if we could hear a recording of the things we’ve said—in anger, gossip, malice, slander, and dishonesty.  Particularly, the Psalmist says “slander” will keep one from the temple. This is an epidemic problem, made worse by the presumption we have that our speech is covered somehow by an exemption. Slander is sinful—it discourages good works because people get gun-shy of criticism, it kills morale as a backbiting atmosphere is unpleasant, and it hinders relationships because it destroys trust.  A tongue can lead a beautiful prayer, teach an amazing Bible class, preach a beautiful sermon and sing like the angels—only to be heard whispering backbiting words, running someone down, or criticizing someone.
  • Excellent eyesight (4). No routine exam is complete without looking at the eyes.  The righteous sees the wayward as God sees them. He doesn’t excuse or defend them as they willfully engage in sin. He sees the evil as God sees them.  That doesn’t mean the righteous won’t try to spiritually win them, but he doesn’t condone them as they live without contrition.

The Psalmist calls for an overall clean bill of health. The spiritually healthy keeps his word, doesn’t take advantage of the needy, and doesn’t betray the innocent. This is an exam we must pass.  How is your spiritual health in light of this heavenly health check?