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greatness humility obedience service

GOD’S RECIPE FOR GREATNESS

Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

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Neal Pollard

Traditionally, people have pursued greatness by achieving prominence in politics, athletics, entertainment, business, and the like. The names of such stand outs live on through the records the world keeps–halls of fame, history books, registers, even buildings and monuments that “immortalize” them after they’ve gone. Every community has its men and women who are held up as paragons of greatness. 

How often do we stop and how much do we focus on what God considers greatness? Interestingly, He has quite a bit to say on the subject. The word is found 49 times in the New Testament and is a word from which we get our English word “mega.” As it is used in the Bible, it refers to a state of greatness and preeminence in quantity, quality, intensity, importance, and excellence (BDAG 623-625). You have God through His inspired writers trying to get our attention, saying, “Here is how you grab My attention and stand out in My eyes.” It is important to know what makes God’s list because “that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15). Surely, the opposite is true, too (1 Cor. 1:26-28). 

God lists the ingredients that, when incorporated into one’s life, renders her or him truly great. Do you want to be great?

Obey God’s Commands (Matthew 5:19)

While Jesus is speaking of the Old Law in context, the application lives on. Jesus ties greatness to having a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (20). Without that, one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. He goes on to demonstrate the difference between their righteousness and true righteousness. How do I handle what God’s Word tells me to do? By submitting to His authority in my life, I will become great.

Be Humble  (Matthew 18:4)

Ironically, the point of discussion in this context is, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” (1). Surely, Jesus blows their mind by placing a little child in their midst and saying, “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (4). They were “little ones,” dependent upon others for their care, looking to others for guidance and instruction, and not concerned with status. Do I see my utter dependence upon God? If so, will I be arrogant and haughty in my dealings with those around me?

Serve Others (Matthew 20:26)

Those frivolous disciples were frequently looking for prominence and recognition. It’s a good thing we don’t fall prey to that today, huh? These very men who walked with Jesus every day, seeing His power and greatness, succumbed to the temptation to want others to esteem them as great. In Matthew 20, James’ and John’s mother comes asking for places of distinct greatness (20-23). The other ten “became indignant” (24; was it because they struggled with the same tendency, Luke 22:24?). Jesus explodes their idea of greatness by saying that “whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.” About this time, Jesus models this principle by washing their feet. He does so to give them an example, then says, “A slave is not greater than his master, nor is he who is sent greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:15-16). 

Let’s make that practical, especially in the church context. Who’s the greatest in the Lord’s church today? You’ll find them steadfastly, conscientiously striving to follow Scripture. It’s what brings them “through the doors” to assemble, but it’s also what drives them out into the community and into the lives of others leading righteous, godly lives against the tide of the culture. You’ll find them respectfully listening to others ideas and concerns, not having to be the center of attention or constantly propped up and petted. You’ll find them doing for others, looking for ways to encourage, help, and support them. Obedient, humble, unselfish servants make great elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, soul-winners, parents, children, and disciples! Fill a church with great people and it will turn the world upside down (Acts 17:6). 

Let’s be great, God’s way!

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Categories
attitude negativity selfishness

The Negative Mosquito

Thursday’s Column: Carl’s Corner

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Carl Pollard

I have loved living in Alabama for the past two years, but there’s one major problem I’ve run into since moving…the mosquitos. These bugs are a nightmare. The one good thing about the winter is there aren’t any of these blood sucking demons.
It honestly seems like there are two kinds of mosquitoes here. You have the ones that are small enough to fit through the screen door, and ones big enough to push it open.
I did some research and found out a few interesting details about mosquitoes. For one, they are attracted to high cholesterol (If you get bit a ton you most likely need to slow down on the burgers). Two, they are attracted to carbon dioxide and can actually smell it from 150 feet away. And three, a mosquito’s average lifespan is only about 10-14 days.
You may be wondering why I’m telling you this, but I actually found an interesting connection between mosquitos and a very specific group of people. The more I learned about them, the more they began to resemble negative people. For example, negative people love what isn’t good for them, just like carbon monoxide can kill you and cholesterol can stop your heart. Also, negative people can only seem to keep a friend for about 10-14 days.
Paul, in the book of Philippians, is urging the church to show humility and to be servant minded like Christ. In 2:1-4, he says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Paul through inspiration uses the word “conceit” (kenodoxia). This is defined as “a vain or exaggerated self-evaluation.” A negative mindset under any circumstance is vain and  selfish. We must always keep in mind that the people we are negative toward should be treated as more important than ourselves.
There is no room for negative people in the body of Christ. We are commanded to love each other, serve each other and encourage one another. Keeping in mind what Jesus has done for us, live to help your brothers and sisters in Christ.
P.S. Don’t be a mosquito.
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Categories
greed materialism Uncategorized

Distracted And Delayed By Baggage

Neal Pollard

On May 7, Bill McGee wrote in a USA Today article about the crashed Aeroflot plane that killed 41 of the passengers onboard: “Reports from people on the plane indicate the evacuation may have been slowed by passengers grabbing their bags. Videos show passengers taking their carry-on bags with them as they exited the plane,” the AFA said in a statement. “We will never know if more lives could have been saved if the bags were left behind” (online edition, “Were lives lost at the cost of carry-ons in Aeroflot plane crash that killed 41?”).  It’s outrageous and unbelievable that people would care more for their luggage than human lives, but that appears to be the case.

In Luke 12:15, Jesus taught, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” The NASB translates the first part of the verse, saying, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed….” Watching video footage of those passengers making an emergency exit with carry-ons in hand is a rather graphic, unmistakeable illustration of Jesus’ point. Unfortunately, we can have a harder time seeing ourselves doing the same thing in the prioritization of our lives. We may be aghast at the thought that their seemingly greedy decision came at the expense of some people behind them being able to escape the flames, but Scripture teaches the devastating effect greed can have on our own lives and the lives of those we influence.

Paul teaches that such can be a “snare,” “harmful desires,” plunging men into “ruin and destruction” that pierces them “with many griefs” (1 Tim. 6:9-10). It’s interesting that Paul’s inspired counsel is to “flee from these things” (11). We should consider that an inordinate desire and pursuit of material things may hurt not only ourselves, but the people that come along behind us. That includes our children, grandchildren, and the other people who are guided by our influence and example. They are watching what we value most and what has our greatest attention and affection. We may not be caught on camera, but God sees it with perfect, all-seeing eyes. 

Let’s be careful not to allow this world to cloud our judgment, making the things of this world more important than souls or the will of the Lord. The stakes are higher than whether we exit an airplane alive. It’s about how we leave this world and enter the next one.

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Categories
self-control self-denial Uncategorized

Self-Control Means Saying “Yes” As Well As “No”

Neal Pollard

Don’t you normally associate self-control with self-denial?  Certainly, Jesus says that following Him means denying self in a variety of ways (Matt. 16:24).  Gluttony, sexual sin, alcoholism and other physically detrimental habits, cursing, and the like involve this negative dimension of self-control.  Yet, how many times have you heard a preacher or teacher emphasize the positive sphere of this fruit of the Spirit?  Doesn’t it take self-control to get up out of the chair on Tuesday night and visit that non-Christian who came to church services the previous Sunday?  Doesn’t it take self-control to work up the nerve to speak to a co-worker about the Bible?  Doesn’t it take self-control to make time for daily Bible study and prayer?  Doesn’t it take self-control to spend quality time with your spouse and children?  My experience tells me that most people say “no” more often than they say “yes.”  Many times, our saying “no” to bad things needs to be quickly coupled with saying “yes” to better and righteous things.  Neither evangelism, edification, nor benevolence get done without this positive side of self-control!  May I encourage us all today to say “yes” to opportunities to serve our Lord, His people, and the lost (cf. Gal. 6:2,10).  He will bless us for such self-discipline.

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Categories
authority choice free will freedom truth Uncategorized

The Logical Progression Of The Line

Neal Pollard

Suddenly, it has become imperative that bathroom concessions be made for those who are struggling with gender identity issues. The comprehensively consuming coverage it has garnered, the blistering backlash against any opposing of this baffling blurring of the lines, and the preeminent priority this has become for a problem pestering a puny percentage of the population is actually not surprising. At least, it should not be.

The premise behind “transgender rights” is the same as that behind gay rights, but also the “right” to choose abortion, the “right” to become sexually active before marriage, the “right” to divorce and remarry at will—as well as the “right” to commit adultery. Neither does this clamor for rights reserve itself to matters identified in scripture as sexual sins. The watchwords of our culture include “feel,” “want,” “choose,” and the variants of “I,” “me,” and “my.” Self has been enthroned and each call to express, practice, and flaunt each co-opted right is expected to be not just tolerated by everyone else, but wholly embraced by them.

If you think our society lost its collective mind overnight, you have not been paying attention. If you think that this sickening syndrome was born in the 21st Century, you are likewise mistaken. We are seeing the spoiled fruit of sinister seed planted by mankind in every generation since the first generation.  There is a moral ebb and flow in every civilization and generation, but the issue is ever-present. The majority succumb to the temptation to crown our desires and condemn the declarations of Deity.

It was an illuminating moment, looking at Mark 8:34-35 last night during Teens In The Word. Michael Hite pointed out a thread used by Mark that’s summed up in those two verses. Several times, Mark speaks of what individuals “want” or “desire.” Herodias wanted to kill John the Baptist (6:19). Her daughter wanted his head as payment for the dance which pleased Herod so much (6:25). Herod did not want to refuse her (6:26). People did whatever they wished with John the Baptist (9:13). Jesus speaks of those who desire to be first (9:35). James and John wanted a position of prominence (10:35). Jesus warns about those who desire greatness (10:43-44). But, if we desire to come after Jesus—to be His disciple—we must put self to death! This is a radical idea, one completely rejected by the world. Instead, the world says to keep moving the line to wherever you want it. You decide! You’re the boss. Discipleship acknowledges that God and His Word determine where the lines are drawn. We follow Jesus and stay behind His lines.

But Jesus does not ask us to do what He did not do to the greatest degree. Facing His imminent death on the cross, Jesus prayed in the garden, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). All these words, variously translated “desire,” “want,” and “will” in Mark’s gospel, are from a single Greek word meaning “to desire to have or experience something; wish to have” (Louw-Nida, BDAG). Jesus followed His Father’s will and denied His own. In essence, He says to us in Mark 8:34-35, if you want My salvation, you must do the same thing. The world doesn’t get that, but we must! This life is not about getting everything we want. It’s about self-denial, murdering self-will, and following Jesus. It’s about staying within His lines when it comes to everything. That’s a message we must gently share with a world bent on a self-destructive, self-guided journey!

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Categories
motivation selfishness

Are You A Taker Or A Giver?

Neal Pollard

  • Are you sure to take credit for works that are done or do you seek to give credit for them?
  • Are you more apt to take others’ time or to give your time to others?
  • Do you take joy from others or give it to them?
  • Are you quicker to take the attention or to give it?
  • Would others better know you as a taker of happiness or as a giver of it?
  • Is your reputation as one who takes others’ help or who gives yourself to help others?
  • Are you prone to take advantage of someone or give an advantage to someone?
  • As you take God’s blessings, do you give yourself as a blessing to others?
  • Would you be better known as a taker or giver of encouragement?

There are surely more contrasts along these lines, but consider this regarding them all. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35b).  Much of this is a matter of selfishness or unselfishness.  As unappealing as the prospect is, each of us does well to look closer at which we are.  We may grab a temporary spotlight, get a short-term advantage, or have the fleeting praise of men, even while taking, but the Lord’s view is different.  He says of takers, “They have their reward in full” (Mat. 6:2,5,16).  How much better to give (cf. Lk. 6:38)!

Categories
considerate courtesy friendliness love

Please Hang Up Your Smartphone

Neal Pollard

Prefatory note: I am writing as a guilty party rather than an innocent bystander.  The following words are directed inwardly at least as much as outwardly.

It is getting hard to remember what we did before we got our smartphones.  How did we keep from answering everyone’s texts immediately or looking up the minutest factoids about athletes, actors, and ancient history before we let another moment pass? What did husbands and wives, other family, and friends do at dinner and other public and private places?  Why did we ever engage in face to face conversations with the person in front of us when we could have been blowing them off to inbox or text a person hundreds or thousands of miles away from us?  Wasn’t good manners and courtesy way overrated?

It seems like an epidemic, whether an etiquette virus or relationship dementia.  Too often, we have become so absorbed with posting, tweeting, Facebooking, and like communicating with our cellular device that we have slowly started disconnecting with the real world and the moment.  Last Sunday, sitting at the airport, I was amazed to see rows and rows of future passengers glued to their seats with eyes glued to their laptops and phones.  The airlines have even modified their policy in recent times to allow one to never have to cut off their “handheld devices” so long as they are in airplane mode.  I’m no expert, but I wonder for how many of us our tools of technology have become avenues of addiction?  I have given a little thought to this, and now offer some totally unsolicited advice:

  • Choose the person in the room who can see whether you are paying attention to them over the one elsewhere who won’t know you didn’t answer their message immediately.
  • If you choose face-to-face interaction, try putting your phone away and even out of convenient reach.
  • Try to be self-aware of how much time you are spending with and how often you gravitate toward your phone.
  • If it is an urgent or emergency situation, consider excusing yourself (if possible without divulging that you are tending to your phone) until after you’ve completed the text, call, or message.
  • As much as possible, stow the phone when it’s family time, date time, double-date time, or social or spiritual fellowship time.
  • Realize that any excuse given for why you are answering that text or message will almost always sound lame.  Don’t excuse rudeness.  Eliminate it.

We can really help each other break this habit, and we need to do so with love and patience while realizing most of us are guilty of these things at least sometimes.  Let us not let the virtual and technological worlds interfere with and even hamper our “realtime relationships.”  May we all practice “hanging up” our smartphones more often!

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Bear Valley church of Christ Daily Bread Neal Pollard Pollard blog Uncategorized

WOULD YOU LIVE IN THE SKINNIEST HOUSE IN THE WORLD?

Neal Pollard

This story is not for the claustrophobic at heart.  In Warsaw, Poland, Polish architect Jakub Szczesny has designed and built a 46-square-foot house, called the Keret House, in an alley between two other buildings.  The tiny fridge in the tiny kitchen can hold two cans of soda.  The bathroom has a shower that hovers almost directly over the toilet.  It has no windows and one must use a ladder to get to the house’s sole bedroom. The house is five feet wide at its broadest point and three feet wide at its narrowest (Meredith Galante, Business Insider, 10/19/12).

Is this a publicity stunt, an engineering project, or something else?  The house will be rented to some “lucky” tenant at some point, though for now patrons of a local Warsaw museum who have donated $6 or more are being given the opportunity to tour the house. Can you imagine how cramped it would be living in the Keret House?

Every day, the majority of the world live so far beneath their blessings.  Instead of preparing to live in the “house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6), they have chosen the slums of sin.  With the blessings of prayer, guidance from Scripture, peace, joy, and service within their grasp, they confine themselves in the small and cramped prison of self.  Benjamin Franklin is attributed as originating the saying, “A man wrapped up in himself makes a pretty small package.”  The amazing part is that this is the freewill choice of the majority, and each of us struggles against making the very same decision.  James, in two graphic statements, calls or equates “selfish ambition” with arrogance, lying against the truth, disorder, and every evil thing (3:14,16).

Most of us would not choose a physical existence that was so small and confining.  Why choose to do that spiritually, especially when there is plenty of room in the Father’s house (John 14:2).  Let us choose to “move on up” from self to serve the Savior!