A Tale Of Two Shepherds

A Tale Of Two Shepherds

Friday’s Column: Brent’s Bent

Brent Pollard

It’s a safe assumption that even the unchurched have heard the 23rd Psalm, given its connection to funerals or memorial services. It is a most comforting psalm, but we note the implications for the deceased are only found in the final verse, in which David confidently asserts that the righteous dead will dwell in the Lord’s House forever. Otherwise, the psalm depicts what the Good Shepherd does for His living sheep. In the New Testament, Jesus identifies Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10.11,14).  

In contrast to the 23rd Psalm, Jesus is the One walking not only in the shadow of the valley of death but into the grave itself, laying down His life for the sheep. However, this difference does not suggest that Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, does not still provide the same blessings to God’s sheep living under the New Covenant. Indeed, John 10.10 tells us He gives us abundant life. So, the first Shepherd, the One with Whom we are most familiar, is the Shepherd Whose voice we must hear (John 10.3-5, 14-16). 

But what of the other shepherd? For illustrative purposes, we will call him “Mammon.” In Psalm 49, the psalmist, presumably one of Korah’s sons, presents a didactic poem. Essentially, by calling it didactic, we are acknowledging that it is a poem that teaches an important lesson (or lessons). The instruction found in Psalm 49 is a warning against trusting in one’s riches. In Psalm 49.14, the psalmist says: 

“They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions” (NASB1995). 

Despite sounding like a 1980s hair metal band, the 49th Psalm teaches about the “Death Shepherd.” The “they” in the first part of verse 14 are those trusting in material wealth. The latter part of the verse reveals that death will separate them from their wealth. Note that the son of Korah provides a parenthetical contrast. The upright will prevail over them in the morning. Commentators acknowledge this is an understanding of a coming resurrection day, even if not explicitly stated. You can come away with no other interpretation, especially as you read the next verse. 

“But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself” (Psalm 49.15 NASB1995).  

On the other hand, Mammon will prevent you from being able to serve God (Matthew 6.24). He fills one with anxiety and makes them forget the Providence of God (Matthew 6.25-34). The Death Shepherd is an enticing distraction, not unlike the storied Pied Piper of Hamelin, who led away the innocents with his magical piping. The Death Shepherd entrances the susceptible sheep with wealth but pastures them in destruction from which the sheep cannot escape. Both this son of Korah and Jesus, through His Parable of the Rich Fool, remind us that one’s riches end up the property of another after death (Psalm 49.10; Luke 12.16-21). Thus, one forfeits his or her immortal spirit for nothing worthwhile compared to the price he or she pays (Matthew 16.26).  

Two voices are calling to the sheep today. One is the voice of the Good Shepherd. The other voice is the Death Shepherd. Endeavor to make sure you heed the correct One so that you end up in the correct sheepfold!   

Loving The Lost (Part 4)

Loving The Lost (Part 4)

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

In loving the lost we should imitate the father in Luke 15:11-32. Notice his response to his son: 

  • He was hopeful for his son to return
  • He was waiting and saw him from far off
  • He was compassionate
  • He runs out to him 
  • He showered him with love 

In loving the lost, do we show this same care and concern as the father in this parable? It is a command that we love the lost and we search for them, because what is lost has an eternal impact. 

Notice the structure of Luke 15: 

  • 1 out of 100
  • 1 out of 10
  • 1 out of 2 

Each one is just as valuable as the next. Every soul is worth loving. Every soul is worth fighting for. 

In London there is an official governmental office for lost and found items. It is the London Transports “Lost Property Office.” It is located on the side of the Baker’s Street Station, just across the street from the fictitious residence of Sherlock Holmes. It has been there since 1933 and it is where all the lost items found on or in any of London’s transportation systems… subways, buses, cabs, etc., are placed to be reclaimed. Every year between 150,000 and 200,000 items are found and turned in to the LPO where officials attempt to locate owners and return their lost items.

Every year people lose wheelchairs, false teeth, watches, backpacks and lunch pails, umbrellas, cell phones, and what have you… between 2009 and 2010 38,000 books, 29,000 bags and 28,000 pieces of clothing were turned in. Oddities found and turned in included urns with human remains, a suitcase full of money, a human skull and a lawnmower.

People lose valuable items all the time, but most have lost their soul, the most valuable of their possessions, and they don’t even realize it. The sheep knew it was lost when it couldn’t find the flock, and some people will understand that something is missing in their life and search for it. The coin didn’t realize it was lost, because…well it was a coin. Some today will live as if nothing is missing. The prodigal son illustrates those who are lost, and know where to return to when they wish to come home. 

Our job today as Christians is to show people what is missing. We are to be a shining light to them in darkness. 

“This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4). When I was lost in Walmart I regretted that I went and chased after the toy dinosaur. All I wanted was to find my mom again. I was so happy when I saw her. 

You may have a close friend that is searching for truth, and you will see the happiness you give them when they find what is missing, as Christians we are tasked with loving the lost, and what a privilege it is to be apart of sharing the joy of salvation with a lost and dying world. 

(Around the time of the Wal-Mart incident)
Loving the Lost (Part 2): “The Lost Sheep”

Loving the Lost (Part 2): “The Lost Sheep”

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog 

Carl Pollard

Luke 15:1-7, 

“Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.(background of parables)” “So He told them this parable, saying,”What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.”

Sheep aren’t the smartest of animals. They can be spooked easily and if their wool gets out of hand they can get stuck just by falling over. It’s very fitting that we are compared to sheep. We don’t always make the wisest decisions, but if we would just follow the shepherd we would never have a problem. 

There are numerous ways that we can become lost, but many times it is due to our own ignorance. Just like a sheep. We become a meal for the devil the second we leave the protection of the shepherd. God’s love for the lost is something that is truly inspiring. 

Animals tend to have a wandering nature about them. We are no different in that sense. We want to wander and explore. But it can be eternally damaging if we lose our soul in the process. So many different kinds of sins can peak our interest or get us curious. But Satan has been tempting Christians for 2000 years. He knows what works. He knows how to get a Christian to wander away from the shepherd. But it happens. People do fall away. 

Thankfully that isn’t the end of the story. The shepherd longs for his sheep to return. He goes out and finds it, and when he does he’s joyful! God rejoices over our returned souls! Do we understand the pain we cause God when we fall away? Each one of us has the personal choice to make, Will I please God? Or will I break His heart? Many people have chosen to desert God. We must imitate the Father in loving those who have gone astray. We must show the same concern that this shepherd had for his sheep.

Loving The Lost (Introduction) pt. 1

Loving The Lost (Introduction) pt. 1

Thursday’s Column: Captain’s Blog

Carl Pollard

Over the next few blogs I want us to explore one of the Bible’s most powerful chapters, Luke 15. These parables spoken by Jesus transformed the lives of those who heard back then, and continue to do so today. 

I was six years old and had no idea where my parents were. Every time we went to Walmart, mom would tell us to stay by her side. But I saw the coolest toy dinosaur I had ever seen. So I went to go look at it, and got lost. I ran up and down aisles but I couldn’t find her. So I started crying and just stood there. Eventually mom found me, and apparently they had been announcing over the loud speaker that my mom was up at the front, but I never heard. 

It’s a terrible feeling to be lost. We’ve all experienced it before. There’s a very special chapter in the book of Luke. It’s called by many, “God’s Lost and Found Department.” Luke 15 contains three parables that convey God’s love for the lost. If we want to be a true child of God we must love what the Father loves. In this chapter we find three examples of the lost and God’s love for them. In this chapter, one of the things that stands out the most is God’s concern for sinners, but also His overflowing joy for their return. In this chapter we will understand better God’s love for mankind and the value of a soul. The true Christian will try to imitate this same love for the lost soul that is found here in this chapter. 

I encourage you to read Luke 15 with God’s powerful love in mind. See you next week.

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Sheep, Love The Shepherds

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

Though scripture doesn’t say, you can be sure David’s sheep had no idea how lucky they were to have a shepherd like him. They were just sheep after all. How could they fully appreciate the extent that David went to in order to keep them safe? Before this begins to sound ridiculous, let’s remember that at least two of David’s sheep were carried off in the jaws of a lion and a bear. When the terrified bleating of an unfortunate sheep is heard by the shepherd, he sprints after the wild animal knowing all the while— it’s just a sheep. It’s just one sheep! Nevertheless, David strikes the predator and saves the sheep (1 Sam. 17.34-35).  

What made David a good shepherd? It certainly wasn’t his stature. The average male of his day stood around five feet tall. He was also the youngest of his family and often unappreciated (1 Sam. 16.11,17.29,33). It was David’s heart and not his height that made him exceptional. He was a natural shepherd of sheep, and of people. 

David is sent by his father, Jesse, to deliver bread for his brothers who are among Saul’s army. When he arrives on scene everyone, including the king, is afraid and unwilling to take a stand against the arrogant Goliath. But before the giant warrior from Gath meets the shepherd boy from Bethlehem, a few more giants will be faced. 

The first giant was the giant of degradation. 

David’s own brother, Eliab, would greet him with two belittling questions that would make a lesser man feel sheepish, but not this shepherd. Eliab asks, “why have you come down here? And who is watching the few sheep?” David’s brother doesn’t think he belongs among warriors and that he is only capable of handling a small number of dumb animals. 

The second giant was that of accusation.

In the same breath Eliab would accuse and insult David three different times. He claims, “I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is. You’ve only come to watch the battle.” How wrong he was and how dare he insult such a godly man! It’s interesting to note that David had an answer to each of these questions and accusations, but never attempts to defend himself. His father sent him, that’s why he was there. He was there to deliver nourishment for this dear brother who had, no doubt, worked up an appetite doing absolutely nothing. No retaliation or snarky remark would escape from the shepherd’s mouth because nothing like that was in his heart (Matt. 12.34).

The third giant David would conquer would be the towering giant of indignity.

He didn’t shame his brother and he didn’t let his brothers shaming keep him from shining. 

Shepherds put up with a lot, don’t they? Good shepherds really put up with a lot. Faithful god-fearing elders within the Lord’s church all over the world are faced with giants more often than they should. Sometimes the giants they face are their own sheep. How easy it is to make confident accusations against them, to question their intentions, hearts, and capabilities. That unpaid servant of God is more often than not the first one to come running when the bleating of a wayward member is heard. When we find ourselves in the clutches of our various trials, they attempt to pry us out. At times they earnestly pray over and take on burdens that aren’t theirs to carry. Faithful elders will find themselves in a position where they could make the sheep feel shame, but choose to save the feelings of others because that’s what a good shepherd does. It’s not their height, it’s their heart. The sheep need to love their shepherds, because the shepherds love their sheep!

The Lost Are Still Lost

The Lost Are Still Lost

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

blond man with goatee smiling at camera with blazer on
Dale Pollard

It hurts and it’s hard to become attached to anyone who isn’t living faithfully because they’re lost. That means they’re not going to heaven. Sometimes lost people pretend like that’s not their reality by distracting themselves with things that make them feel like they’re not lost (Ecc. 2.24-25). 

There’s a good chance that you know people who aren’t going to heaven and many of you love people who aren’t and we’ve got to convince them to hear Jesus out. 

What can we do? 

We can simplify spiritual concepts so that people can understand a message that they desperately need to hear. 

Please don’t let anything get in your way of going home. If you think something might be in your way, God can use us to help you. There are more things to fear than Covid, vaccines, tornados, elections, and riots. 

Everybody responds to the invitation that Jesus extends. Many choose to say no— but nobody ever regrets saying yes. 

To you, responding might be a personal resolve and commitment to christ. 

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

Romans 8.5 

The Darkside Hackers

The Darkside Hackers

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

image

Dale Pollard

Beware the DarkSide. No, that’s not a Star Wars reference. Just a few short weeks ago a cyber-gang who call themselves the “DarkSide” hacked the Colonial Pipeline and sparked a string of panic buyers to funnel jugs and containers full of gasoline. On May 7th the hacked pipeline authorized the ransom sum of $4.4 million to be transferred to the gang to try and settle this concerning situation. An odd spree of events and details shroud this whole thing and for those of us not familiar with the technological aspects, it seems even more unsettling. As Christians it’s okay to keep an eye on the latest events and protect yourself and family, but our watchful eyes would be far better put to use when it comes to our homes, personal faith, and church families. Take a look at what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15. 

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” 

There are false prophets and messages everywhere in our world. They’re doing their best to hack into our spiritual lives and they’ve been successful at doing so. When our guards are down they blend in with the flock and disguise themselves with a counterfeit truth. Thankfully our Savior gives us the solution to uncovering their scheme before they get the chance. He says, “By their fruit you will recognize them…” We have an assurance given to us in Matthew 7:16 which guarantees we will not become a victim of these spiritual hackers. The wolves seek to drag us to the dark side, but with a watchful eye and the protection of the Father they can’t succeed. You won’t see any of this covered in the News but the good news is we have the Good News. It’s powerful and it’s always accurate. Be on the alert and stay watchful for the things that deserve the energy and our attention.

Traits Of A False Teacher

Traits Of A False Teacher

Neal Pollard

John warns, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world…” (2 John 7). The particular deceiver in that passage denied that Jesus came in the flesh. Looking at the religious landscape today, John would no doubt repeat himself. There are so many deceivers who are leading people away from the truth of Christ and about Him. Consider several identifying marks of false teachers, which the Holy Spirit makes known.

  • They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness (Jude 4). They distort what grace is, making it a blanket that hides blatant, willful sin, lust, and materialism. Some rationalize and condone the practice of sin, with the false assurance that God’s grace will cover it without an abhorrence of sin and genuine repentance.
  • They cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace (Jer. 8:11). Superficial comfort is given to people in their sin. How many preachers, rather than confronting sin, tell people they’re OK?
  • They overthrow the faith of people (2 Tim. 2:18). Teaching which distorts or waters down the potency of scripture is to faith what a virus is to the immune system. False teaching destroys people’s faith in God.
  • They teach for doctrines the commandments of men (Mark 7:7). If it contradicts or nullifies revealed truth, it is of man rather than God. Looking at Christendom today, so much of what is widely embraced and assumed to be true are blatant departures from the Bible.
  • They cover up their true intentions (Matt. 7:15). Jude describes the various motives of false teachers. Some do so for the sake of being accepted. Others do it for illicit gain. Some do so out of an arrogant sense of self-importance. Yet, they usually insist they are trying to help people get closer to God. Jesus insists that they deliberately hide their agenda.
  • They are well-liked (Luke 6:26). Few preachers relish offending people or upsetting them. Yet, preaching the whole counsel of God means that, sometimes, some will not like it. Preachers and teachers should proclaim the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but truth taught will sometimes offend no matter how pleasantly and gently it is delivered. Those who compromise truth to placate their hearers may have their acceptance, but God will reject them.
  • They secretly introduce their teaching (2 Pet. 2:1). Why? Were they to publicly proclaim such ideas, they would be exposed. Their ideas can only survive if spread to weak-faith individuals who are not so discerning in more intimate settings. Truth is not afraid of inspection. Error grows in darkness rather than “Sonlight.”
  • They are destined for eternal torment (Rev. 20:10). No matter what success they achieve in this life, there will be an eternity to pay for it. Take soberly the warning of James 3:1.

Preachers (and teachers), have backbone. Preach the truth, even if it is difficult and opposed. Have faith. Whatever it costs to be faithful to the Word, know that heaven will surely be worth it all. Have conviction. Do not let circumstance determine content (2 Tim. 4:2-5).

L.E.A.D.

L.E.A.D.

Neal Pollard

When speaking of the work of elders, there are multiple aspects of his work and his life outlined in Scripture.  He is an “elder” (“A person of responsibility and authority in socio-religious matters,” Louw-Nida, 53.77; “being relatively advanced in age, older, old,” BDAG).  He is a “pastor” or “shepherd” (“To care for, provide,” WSNT, Zodhiates; “To care for the congregation…to seek the lost…and to combat heresy,” TDNT, Kittel, et al, eds.).  He is an “overseer” (“one who serves as a leader in a church…caring for the needs of a congregation as well as directing the activities of the membership,” Louw-Nida, 53.71).  His qualifications are seen in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, his relationship to the membership seen in such passages as 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and Hebrews 13:7,17, and his authority in such passages as 1 Timothy 5:17, but among the three designations identifying him nothing may be more pressing and important than his leadership.  Too often, preachers or other influential members fill the vacuum and void of leadership left by elders who fail to assume this role.  When this happens, God’s pattern for church life is not followed.

Wendell Winkler once wrote, “Leaders cannot lead where they do not go anymore than they can come back from where they have not been.  They influence some by what they say, more by what they do; but, most by what they are” (Leadership: The Crisis Of Our Times, 15).  Citing the example of Isaiah, Franklin Camp wrote, “Isaiah’s response (to God’s question in Isa. 6:8, NP) was as though he were afraid that someone else might volunteer before he did. This attitude is that of which real leadership is made. When there is a challenge placed before the church, read leaders, like Isaiah, are ready to accept it” (Principles and Perils of Leadership, 50). Then, J.B. Myers adds this, that “a leader is one who guides others and directs a course of action. Fundamental to leadership is the willingness to take the initiative in behalf of a group, such as the church” (Elders and Deacons, 166).  These and other men have written books or articles, preached sermons, and taught classes urging the church’s elders to be leaders.  The need is as great today for this as ever!

How can elders effectively lead today?

Love.  Be tender and compassionate, as a shepherd. Be gentle and wise, as an elder.  Be faithful to God’s will, loving Him first, as a leader.

Exemplify.  Study and follow the example of the Great Shepherd.  Have a long track record of righteous living, as an elder. Show before you tell as a leader.

Admonish.  Realize the care attached to warning, as a conscientious shepherd. Summon the benefit of experience, as an elder, to be reminded of the abject neglect attached to ignoring sin “in the camp.”  Appreciate that sheep need a clarion, understandable voice from the leaders.

Decide.  Know that confusion and scattering lies in the wake of an indecisive shepherd. Trust the accumulation of wisdom gained as one who has reached the age befitting an elder. Grasp the connection between decisiveness (even if unpopular) and leadership.

Bigger, stronger congregations hinge upon good, godly leaders.  The faithfulness of Christians rests in the hands of capable leaders. Evangelism flags and fails minus the sure guidance and equipping of leaders.  Pray for every elder everywhere to L.E.A.D.!

Submitting To Elders

Submitting To Elders

Neal Pollard

Elders are not infallible, and most of the men I’ve known who serve as elders do not think they are.  On the whole, the rank and file of elders I have known are humble, selfless, sacrificial, magnanimous, and spiritual men who embrace the often difficult work of herding and leading that often strong-willed species of us known in biblical terms as “sheep.”  They are so often second-guessed and may be the most commonly backbitten group of people among God’s people.  I have found that there are a few—sadly too often a “vocal minority”—who, in practice, are hesitant to submit to eldership’s decisions.  In my experience, here are some of the reasons why:

  • They do not agree with the judgment call(s) made by the eldership
  • They do not understand why the elders have decided as they have
  • They feel they would or could handle a situation better than the elders did
  • They feel that they would be immune from perceived pressures or weaknesses
  • They see some deficiency in them

Such attitudes are very frustrating to encounter.  I would go so far as say that these are bad attitudes.  They reflect more on the sheep than the shepherds. Here is what they often fail to understand:

  • The elders probably have privy to more information than they do
  • They are likely privy to sensitive information they cannot share
  • They are almost always involved in more than anyone else
  • Since they will give an account to God for their work, they face the reality of making choices for which they have to answer
  • They submitted to a congregational process and found qualified to lead
  • We are commanded to submit to them, and that necessarily implies in matters of judgment even when we do not agree with their judgment

The vast majority of elders are sensitive to the concerns and objections they hear from the sheep.  Should we not exercise an equal measure of humility, selflessness, sacrifice, magnanimity and spirituality in our words and attitudes regarding our shepherds?  Remember, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).