Categories
division hearing media social media

Hearing Protection

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Hearing is pretty important. One of the best things about the beach is the sound of the waves crashing against the shore. How many have lost a loved one and, more than anything, just want to hear their voice again? I’ve been told that the sound of birds in the early morning is very peaceful (I wouldn’t know from experience because mornings are for crazy people). We experience and enjoy so much of the world through hearing! 

We usually take precautions while doing something that could potentially damage our hearing. When using some kind of implement like a mower, chainsaw, tractor, leaf blower, etc., we might use hearing protection. If you like to go shooting, you’ll definitely use earplugs or a suppressor (if you don’t mind the paperwork) to mitigate some of the sound. If you work in an industrial environment, chances are you’ll spend most of the day with earplugs in. We take these precautions because we’d like to keep our hearing for as long as we can. 

There’s a lot of noise in our world right now. People are screaming out their political viewpoints and world-views. Hatred on both sides of the political aisle is being shared with as much volume as their respective constituents can muster. Media has given us information overload and we’re very aware of everything going wrong with the world. It’s no surprise to me that so many people in our time are experiencing daily, sometimes-crippling anxiety. The noise we’re experiencing is deafening. 

Our world needs a refresher course on hearing safety, so what follows is merely the essentials. 

First, unnecessary exposure to noise may cause irreparable damage. The greatest hazards are social and news media as they produce the most volume. Many of us are exposing ourselves to the negativity found in these platforms at dangerous levels. Cutting way back on our exposure to these sources of division, anxiety, violence, and hatred is sure to help us avoid damage. 

Second, it’s called “volume” for a reason: lots of voices are involved. We can do our part to prevent damage by simply not contributing to the decibel level. Imagine how much more peaceful our world would be if most people refrained from publicly sharing their opinions! By not contributing to the noise level, we can help ourselves and others stay spiritually and emotionally sound. 

Finally, use hearing protection! It may not be a bad idea to put away any conduits to information for a while. Spend some time with friends and family, spend some time in nature, spend some time being productive around the house, spend some time in a hobby, spend some time in the Word. 

If we follow these three things – avoiding or limiting exposure, not contributing to the noise level, and using hearing protection – we will find ourselves happier, healthier, more unified, stronger, more spiritual, and less anxious. For the next few weeks (months?), let’s use hearing protection and see if our outlook doesn’t improve drastically. 

Proverbs 1:5; 17:4

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Categories
distraction priorities

Cultivating Your Spiritual Garden 

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Wisteria is beautiful. Despite its beauty, though, wisteria can be an invasive vine if it is not carefully cultivated, becoming genteel kudzu. As I had to go to a doctor’s appointment in Gainesville, Georgia, yesterday, I noted how much wisteria grows around that city. For the most part, it was not managed well. Thus, you would see azalea bushes or maple trees with purple flowers choking them out. However, if you take the time to train the vine, you can make a stunning addition to your garden with wisteria. One popular way of taming wisteria is having it run along an arbor creating a tunneled walkway through the blooms.

 We have other things around us that act a lot like wisteria. These are things having the potential to be something helpful or enjoyable, but which end up being deleterious to our spiritual health because we do not manage them well.

Becoming distracted by doing good is one such type of spiritual wisteria. When Jesus was with his dear friends in Bethany, Martha wearied herself seeking to be an excellent hostess. She asked Jesus to rebuke her sister, Mary, for not helping her prepare. Since Mary was listening to Jesus teach, He said she was doing what was necessary (Luke 10.39-42). It is a good thing to be hospitable. We note that the need to be hospitable is one of the qualifications for an elder (1 Timothy 3.2; Titus 1.8). However, one’s priority is the kingdom of God (Matthew 6.33). Thus, even in having a desire to do a good thing, one may be overwhelmed and end up missing out on opportunities for spiritual growth.

Social media is another type of spiritual wisteria. During this period of social distancing, I’ve noted how many more brothers in Christ are utilizing Facebook and YouTube to put out encouraging and convicting lessons from God’s Word. Congregations are streaming “virtual worship services” for homebound people to participate in. It excites me that we might be seeing the beginnings of the “Third Great Awakening” in the United States as people realize they have ways of expressing their faith which has nothing to do with a building. Even so, I note that with people using social media even more now (if such a thing is possible) it likewise gives rise to a lot of things that ultimately detract from spiritual growth. People are also posting depressing or rancorous things. You still see lewd jokes and double entendres. We need to ensure that our use of social media at this tend helps us to serve as salt and light in this world so God can be glorified (Matthew 5.13-16).

 You may have noted other types of spiritual wisteria I have not included. We want to emphasize that this “wisteria” in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is, rather, that a failure to discipline ourselves allows for this good thing to lessen its value.  You must put forward the effort to properly utilize and enjoy physical and spiritual wisteria. You must do the same thing when it comes to cultivating a beautiful, spiritual garden pleasing to God (cf. 1 Corinthians 9.24-27).

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Categories
church church (nature) church function loneliness

Defeating The Adversity of Loneliness In The Communication Age

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

brent 2020

Brent Pollard

Human connections are necessary. Though stated in the context of needing a mate comparable unto himself, God nevertheless said of man it wasn’t good for him to be alone (Genesis 2.18). Thus, God provided Adam with Eve. Elsewhere, the wise man of God reminds us of the advantages of having companions:

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Ecclesiastes 4.9-12 NASB)

Hence, even if being around many people wearies our soul, we admit it’s a blessing to have those precious few upon whom we can depend to be there for us when we emerge from our solitude.
Jesus had His close companions. We don’t doubt He loved all those men He chose to be His apostles, but He singled out Peter, James, and John to be His “inner circle.” They were His confidants. It was to these three alone He shared His true glory (Matthew 17.1ff). Peter, James, and John also went further into the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus as He prayed (Mark 14.32-35). In addition, John refers to himself throughout the Gospel he was inspired to pen as “the disciple whom the Lord loved” (John 21.20). This same passage also shows us that John leaned against the Lord during the last Passover (Can you imagine?).

God never intended us to face life alone. As mentioned previously, God provided the foundation for the family in the very beginning. The family has often been called the “bedrock of society.” Aristotle wrote in Politics that humans organized themselves first in families that birthed villages which, in turn, gave rise to the polis (i.e. city-state).  As we live in a world into which sin was welcomed, we understand people bound to us, even by ties of blood, may betray or abandon us. We see, then, the wisdom of God in giving to us the church.
It’s a sad paradox in a world of virtual, perpetual interconnectedness people feel lonelier than ever. The HRSA reveals that loneliness and social isolation is as bad for one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day! 1 Just type in the words “loneliness epidemic” in a search engine and see what pops up. This isn’t a problem just for our seasoned citizens either. 2 There’s no excuse for the child of God to be lonely, however. Christ instituted the church to be God’s Household on earth (Ephesians 2.19). If we assemble as we ought, we will be stirred to love and the performance of good works (Hebrews 10.24-25). Furthermore, we encourage and build up one another in the church (1 Thessalonians 5.11; Ephesians 4.15-16).
Yes, we’re currently facing a global epidemic not physical in nature. It’s a disease of the heart perpetuated by loneliness, which focuses one’s attention inward on troubles and wants. God didn’t create you to be alone. Dismiss the foolish notion that the church is for the weak and embrace the strength it supplies the lonely heart. You’ll never find an app that can do for you what the church can.

References

1 “The ‘Loneliness Epidemic.’” Health Resources & Services Administration, HRSA.gov, 10 Jan. 2019, www.hrsa.gov/enews/past-issues/2019/january-17/loneliness-epidemic.

 

2 Howe, Neil. “Millennials And The Loneliness Epidemic.” Forbes, Forbes Media LLC, 3 May 2019, 13:21, www.forbes.com/sites/neilhowe/2019/05/03/millennials-and-the-loneliness-epidemic/#77096a8f7676.

 

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Categories
conflict peace social media

“Quit Yer Whinin'”

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

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Gary, with his wife Chelsea

Gary Pollard

I think we’ve all been in the uncomfortable position of witnessing a couple loudly arguing in public. Whether this is at a restaurant, the store, a gas station, or any other public place, it’s downright uncomfortable. Some thoughts going through our minds might be, “Where’s their self-awareness?” or, “They might need to see someone about those issues,” or, “Why here?” We definitely would not want to spend too much time with anyone whose conflict resolution abilities are so classless. Conflict in a relationship is unavoidable and, if handled properly, is vital to the health of a relationship. Poorly managed conflict, though, is sure to destroy it! 

Unfortunately, the world is seeing this more and more. Petty arguments between Christians over matters that have absolutely no bearing on our eternal destination are commonplace. Which Bible version is best? What will heaven be like? What should we wear to worship? Which college should one attend (“that college is liberal/conservative”)? Should we meet in a building or in homes? Should a Christian wear a head covering or not? Should a Christian celebrate certain holidays or not? Should a Christian carry a gun or not? Who should I vote for? 

These are topics I have seen debated in the ugliest possible ways in public forums, whether live or over social media. There is nothing wrong with disagreement handled in a godly way (Matthew 18.15-20). In fact, it can help grow the church because it often brings members closer together. However, when the argument is both non-essential to salvation and is handled unbiblically, it destroys the church. 

If I may be very blunt, this must stop. Our behavior is not only pushing the world away but generations of the church’s own members as well. When a Christian’s blocked list on social media is primarily members of his/her own spiritual family, we have reached concerning levels of dysfunction. I realize that this is not a pleasant article to read, but it is time for us to make a change. 

It is time to stop writing or sharing articles on inflammatory or controversial topics that have no bearing on our salvation. Religious keyboard warriors and trolls need to quit. People of authority and position must stop using their voice to divide and discourage the bride of Christ over non-essential matters (some examples are listed in the second paragraph). We will be held accountable for our words and influence over the body of Christ at judgment. 

When we inevitably find ourselves in disagreement with another Christian over a matter of opinion, we should either handle it privately and with patience and love, or let it go entirely (see Romans 14, I Corinthians 8, Matthew 18, Philippians 1.27, 2.1-5; 2.12, 2.14, 15; 3.17-19; 4.2). Being correct or winning an argument at the expense of peace is not worth losing our souls. This article is just as much for myself as it is for anyone reading this. It is for everyone. 

Around 156,000 people die every day (that’s about 56,000,000 people per year) and most them die outside of Christ. Our time is limited and our influence precious. Our words are among the most powerful tools and weapons ever created. Let us use them well, as they could very well influence someone’s eternal destination – or our own. 

Categories
conflict marriage Uncategorized

Marriages Secretly In Trouble

Neal Pollard

Social media has done us no favors, with the temptation it presents to project happiness and perfection while masking the trials and challenges inevitable for such a long-term commitment as marriage is. Not only can we be guilty of misrepresenting our own relationship, but we can unwittingly put pressure on other couples who see these projections and increase dissatisfaction with their less than perfect and happy marriage. Of course, the answer to this is not to use forums like social media to air the sordid stains on our life’s laundry. But, there is a need for some reasoning and common sense that can assist us in building better marriages.

The University of Wyoming’s Family And Consumer Sciences department has an excellent study by Ben Silliman entitled, “Intimacy Means Conflict.” They begin with a profound, if provocative, statement, saying, “To love may not mean to fight, but it does mean to become close, to care a lot, and eventually to discover differences and disagreements. Those who love much have a better chance of conflict” (click here). This great study includes some common sense suggestions for working through the conflict:

  • Focus on needs, not solutions.
  • Brainstorm possible solutions.
  • Choose the best option. 
  • Make a plan.
  • Implement the plan. 
  • Seek feedback and evaluate both the process and the outcome (ibid.).

He does not overtly come from a biblical worldview. He is not exclusively focused on monogamous marriage relationships. But his counsel is sound and consistent with biblical principles.  Cross-check each of his suggestions with Scriptural guidance:

  • Philippians 2:3-4
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9
  • 1 Corinthians 10:23
  • Proverbs 16:3
  • Psalm 37:5
  • 1 Peter 3:7; James 3:17

The passages represent that the Bible talks about all these methods and approaches, but it does not suggest that this is all the Bible has to say about these. I am convinced the devil would love nothing more than for married couples, beset by conflict and even repeatedly addressing the same issue or issues, to just give up on their marriages. Wouldn’t he love for us to be convinced that we’re the only ones struggling and our situations are hopeless? I know such thoughts are not of God, who urges us to see possibilities even through improbabilities because of His capabilities (Phil. 4:13). 

It’s fatal to a marriage to ignore or be in denial about the things that produce conflict. And it’s foolish to believe that a marriage is doomed because conflict is present. There is no way to achieve closer relationships without negotiating the unavoidable differences between two individuals striving to be a united couple. May I encourage all of us who are married to redouble our commitment to working through conflict in order to reach closer, Christ-centered relationships. 

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Categories
attitude brotherly love division social media Uncategorized unity

The Fight Between The Skunk And The Snake

Neal Pollard

Some time ago, I wrote, “I passed by a skunk and a snake, fighting tooth and nail. I didn’t stop and pet either or take sides. I got out of there as fast as I could.” That was metaphorical rather than actual, though I’ve had encounters with each animal individually. My point had to do with some of the “fights” that regularly occur on social media about some of the most unnecessary causes.

The common ground of these posts and articles are their extremely polarizing effect, drawing a multitude of allies and opponents. So often, they relate to matters that, of themselves, will not effect a single person’s eternity (though the poor stewardship of time, emphasis, tone, and attitude might imperil more than a few).

I have been tempted to weigh in on probably a thousand of these spats and civil wars, but I do not. It’s not that I do not have decided views on nearly all the debates. Instead, I try to project myself into the future. Will it expand my influence for Christ for good? What will my comment add to the spirit of brotherly love, magnanimity, unity, and church growth? Will I truly be helping struggling souls? Will it elevate the view of Jesus’ bride in the eyes of the lost, the weak, and the wayward? 

After reflecting, the answer is always the same. I cannot answer that for my interjecting brethren. Nor am I one to avoid preaching or personally discussing matters because they may be unpopular or alienating. However, because social media is more impersonal and lacking in the interpersonal dynamics of face-to-face interaction, we run a much greater risk of being misunderstood. 

Today, controversy can be created in real time. As a good friend of mine put it, “Everybody has a megaphone now.” What really requires courage is stepping out from behind a computer or phone and personally interacting with someone we disagree with in civil, loving discourse. It may not foster page views, mass reactions, and reams of online comments, but in the end it may reach more hearts and minds. 

In our current culture, dividing people into camps against each other is incredibly easy. But is it wise? Is it right (Proverbs 6:19b)? 

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Categories
conversation social media speech talking technology Uncategorized

The Art Of Conversation

Neal Pollard

With conversation, when both are active listeners, you are exchanging ideas. Along with this, there’s body language and tone of voice which give clues to what the words mean to the speaker. You negotiate, reason, affirm or deny, and continue through these patterns while discussing any number of subjects. This process is invaluable to building relationships, working together, and even evangelism. For all its advantages, social media lacks almost all of those dimensions.

MIT professor and psychologist Sherry Turkle, in the book Reclaiming Conversation (New York: Penguin, 2015), makes the case that we are talking more than ever but we’ve lost the art of conversation.  Turkle observes, “From the early days, I saw that computers offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship and then, as the programs got really good, the illusion of friendship without the demands of intimacy” (7).  What demands? Paying attention, building trust, having empathy, and giving thoughtful responses (as opposed to rude, reckless ones). 

I’m not trying to militate against the use of social media platforms, texting, or emailing. But the more we gravitate toward those to do our “communicating,” the less we successfully navigate the more difficult, yet more rewarding, art of conversation.

When we read the Bible, we are struck–from beginning to end–with the pervasive importance of dialogue and conversation. From Genesis one, where we read the Godhead’s conversation, “Let us make man…,” to Jesus’ conversation with John in Revelation 22, conversation is indispensable. Not only did God create interpersonal relationships and the vehicle of conversation to build them, but He models it throughout the pages of Scripture.

This article seeks to inform, teach, and even persuade, but it is only one dimension of communication. One might argue that other forms of communication are not only necessary, but in many cases will be more effective. The snippets and soundbites of social media postings, much more condensed and lacking context, while being pithy and thought-provoking, are no substitute for what happens face to face in the tension, hard work, and unpredictable dynamic of conversation. Conversation necessitates practice, attention, and mental engagement. 

From the dawn of time, God observed that it’s not good for man to be alone (Gen. 2:18). As suggested by the title of another book by Turkle, Alone Together, we find ourselves increasingly isolated from others and more ill-equipped for building real life relationships. The antidote to that is simple and so attainable.

Let’s engage people more. Let’s resort more to making real life connections and less to hiding behind screens. Let’s look for opportunities to do this with friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Let’s connect more in real life. As with anything, the more we practice the better we’ll get at it. 

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Photo credit: Michael Hite

 

Categories
influence oath pledge social media speech Uncategorized words

My Social Media Pledge

Neal Pollard

  • I will try to use social media to encourage and edify others (1 Thess. 5:11; 1 Cor. 14:26b).
  • I will avoid the shocking, inflammatory, and divisive tactics increasingly characteristic of S.M. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:10; Prov. 12:18; Prov. 15:2,4; etc.).
  • I will ask, “Would I say this in the way I am saying this?,” if face to face with this person or this group of people (Prov. 23:7).
  • I will not use Social Media to pick fights or put people on the defensive (cf. 2 Tim. 3:1ff).
  • I will not be Nellie Nitpicker and Contrary Charlie. About. Every. Single. Little. Thing.
  • I will respect that my connections have connections that are not Christians and I want to be sure to say what I say in accordance with Ephesians 4:15 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
  • I will sever connections with individuals who consistently display a lack of self-control with their words and attitudes. Souls are too precious.
  • I will abhor the thought of doing what would put Christ to an open shame (cf. Heb. 10:29).
  • I will double-check myself to avoid bragging and self-promotion (1 Cor. 13:4-5).
  • I will conquer the desire to have the last word, pile on, or fight fire with fire (Mat. 5:39-42).
  • I will not let the false teaching, bad attitude, or meanness of another be my rationale for behaving in a way that brings Christ shame or jeopardizes my own soul (cf. 1 Cor. 9:24-27).
  • I will always be trying to set the table for productive evangelism or retrieving the wayward (Jas. 5:19-20; Col. 4:6).
  • I will always try to portray the doctrinal, moral, and ethical values of my Lord, thus avoiding reflecting and glorifying whatever values conflict with His (Mat. 5:14-16).
  • I will try to promote, not pummel, the bride of Jesus, appreciate, not attack, the elders, and unite, not untie, wherever possible.
  • I will shun passive aggression in myself first, but also in others.
  • I will deal with dirty laundry in its appropriate way, which is not on Social Media.
  • I will actively try to show grace to everyone, including cantankerous curmudgeons.
  • I will, foremost, realize my own imperfections and try every day I use Social Media to do so in the way Jesus would, if He had Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, a blog, LinkedIn, etc. In a way, through you and me, He does. I will let that sink in!

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Categories
brotherly love kindness love Uncategorized unity

“Act Like You Like One Another”

Neal Pollard

Someone tasked with taking a picture of a couple or small group will coach them to stand closer together, maybe adding, “Act like you like one another.” They will typically chuckle and comply. How many moms have exhorted their squabbling children with a similar phrase?

A quick perusal of social media, with its all-too-often divisive rhetoric and pejorative comments, must frequently draw the same desire from the God of heaven. Whenever He sees His children at each other’s throats, complete with nasty put-downs, sarcasm, and venomous invectives, can we envision Him pleased? Regardless of whether one is motivated by defending the faith or some dearly-cherished viewpoint, he or she does not have to drown responses in hateful, provocative words. But, it happens many times over on a daily basis. For those of us who have non-Christian or new-Christian friends with privy to such comments from professed, mature Christians, we have to wonder if, contemptuously, they chide, “Act like you like one another.” More than that, Scripture convicts us on such a count.

  • “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Pet. 1:22; cf. 4:8).
  •  “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Pet. 3:8-9).
  • “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity” (Col. 3:12-14).
  • “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor” (Rom. 12:9-10).
  • “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way” (Jas. 3:8-10).
  • “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).
  • “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

The noble pursuit of defending the faith and protecting the purity of doctrine can get lost or totally nullified when the most casual observer of our words cannot find the love or detect the genuine concern in the midst of the biting, devouring, caustic quips and one-liners. How we need to pause and be introspective. “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes” (Prov. 21:2a; cf. 16:2). I can easily rationalize and convince myself of my own unrighteousness, as easily as the adulterer, the one in religious error, the drunkard, and the like can do with their iniquity. Why not, as we sift through the complicated maze of “interpersonal dynamics,” deal with each other patiently, giving the benefit of the doubt wherever possible, letting lovingkindness lead the way? We are not compromising divine truth, relinquishing a scriptural position, or shying away from sharing God’s Word when we make the effort to act like we like one another. We are submitting to the ethical blueprint commanded in Scripture (see above). “Let all that you do be done in love” (1 Cor. 16:4).

squabbling-brothers

Categories
distraction evangelism priorities

Diversions, Distractions, Or Deviations?

Neal Pollard

All the following are legitimate outlets, kept in proper perspective:

  • Social causes and needs.
  • Politics.
  • Sports, recreation, leisure and fitness.
  • Wholesome forms of entertainment.
  • Family events.
  • Social media.
  • Socializing and fellowship with fellow Christians.
  • Church buildings.
  • Addressing controversial issues and false teaching.
  • Material possessions.
  • Hobbies.

But our common struggle is allowing these to eclipse our purpose on this earth as Christians.  Interestingly, they all can be utilized as part of our mission, but none were ever meant to replace it.  These activities can easily hinder our faithfulness and usefulness to the cause.  Will you pray for me to keep seeking and saving the lost at the top of my “to do” list of life?  I will do the same for you, if you let me know.  Let’s pray for courage, focus, discernment, resolve, and encouragement to take the gospel as we go about each day.  This is what energized the church in its infancy (cf. Acts 8:4).  They had access to the same distractions and diversions we do, but they could not be diverted from the prime objective. Consequently, we read throughout Acts of their exponential, if unlikely, growth.  May we help each other imitate their spirit and service!