Listen! 

Listen! 

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

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Dale Pollard

Listen! That’s how Jesus starts His lesson in Mark 4:3. He has just stepped out onto a boat so that He could speak to the large crowd that had gathered to hear Him. This was a very special sermon. Jesus is going to give the secret to all of His parables by telling a unique parable about the farmer who goes out to sow on the various kinds of ground. When Jesus said “Listen!” He was talking to a specific kind of person. 

He wasn’t interested in the one who would hear His words and then fall away later when called to stand up for their faith. He wasn’t looking for the one who would hear His words and then foolishly decide that this world had more to offer. 

Jesus said “listen!” because He knew that some would hear His words and those words would change their lives. They would live out His teachings. They would become those lamps He would later discuss later in the chapter. Those who truly listened to this specific sermon and took it to heart would bear fruit. It’s humbling to think that some only believe they’ve listened to Jesus, but on the last day will find out that they only thought they listened (verse 25). 

Are we listening to the Savior? One way Jesus tells us we can know if we and others are listening is by looking at the fruit being planted. This section of scripture is a great reminder that there are many who will not hear the Lord and His life-changing and life-saving message, but there are also those out there in our communities who are willing and waiting for us to share Him with them.

The Prime Objective

The Prime Objective

Such powerful words describe it.  The words “convert,” “save,” “restore,” “recover,” and the like depict the job God left Christians to do (cf. Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:26; Js. 5:19-20; etc.).  The awesome business of God’s people is to be builders in the kingdom upon a foundation originating in eternity (1 Cor. 3:9-15).  Each child of God is a private engaged in spiritual warfare against a tactician only God has the power to defeat (Eph. 6:10ff).

There is ample reason to be filled with excitement and dread at the task before us!  God has entrusted the business of snatching souls out of eternal fire and transferring people out of darkness into His marvelous light to us earthen vessels (2 Cor. 4:7).  The moment we come out of the waters of baptism, we rise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4).  That life entails culling out negative things, bad habits, poor attitudes, old ways of living.  Yet, it also calls for actions and ambitions that a non-Christian could not begin to comprehend.  The sign of genuine faith taken root is the desire to share the good news we ourselves have learned.

Soul-winning is the frontline focus of the family of God.  All else that we do should be an extension or support of this primary work.  Benevolence, though done simply for its own sake, can be a springboard of evangelistic opportunity.  Fellowship is designed to not only build up the saints, but be an atmosphere — be it worship or fellowship outside the corporate assemblies— that honors God and creates hunger and thirst for righteousness.  Non-Christians who come to our assemblies can then believe (cf. 1 Cor. 14:23-24).  They share our company, see the light of Christ in us, and want the joy and peace that the world cannot provide (John 14:27; Mat. 5:16).  

Everywhere we go, mingling in groups and having various associations, there are opportunities.  There is that person who seems to stand out from others who are more frivolously engaged in life.  There is the one who, when others have long shut their ears to truth, is open-minded enough and respectful enough of truth to believe and accept the Bible.  A song that is used in many soul-winning campaigns is Lead Me To Some Soul Today.  God is not going to “lay” anything miraculously on our heart, leading us through some direct operation to some particular person or to say some particular thing.  Yet, providentially, He can open doors that leads us to find the one in search of God’s way.  Our active desire should be to cultivate our hunger and optimism for this great, primary work of the church.

With all else to distract us or compete with our attention and affection, may we never forget the prime objective! We are saved to save (2 Tim. 2:2). Find the searcher and lead the lost! It’s why we’re here. 

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

“It’s Not About Me” In 1 Peter 3 (Part Two)

 

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

 
1 Peter 3.8ff is a passage with tons of application. What I’d like to do is simply break it down and apply as we go.
 
3.8 –   Is addressed to every Christian, as opposed to the gender-specific commands of the previous section. Christians are told to have a unified mindset, understanding of the needs of others, affection for each other, compassion for each other, and a sober view of self.
 
3.9 – In the context of being ridiculed or outright persecuted for faith, we’re commanded not to stoop to a hostile person’s level. Instead, we are only to say good things to and about them. The word for “bless” here would be like us giving a glowing review of someone, even when they’re hostile to us. Why? Because God promised us a glowing review, even though our lifestyle was hostile to Him before we were faithful.
 
3.10-12 – If we want to have good days, we have to control our tongues, reject evil, and actively do beneficial things for others. If we do, God looks at us with approval. If not, He is against us.
 
3.13 – If we pursue doing good things with energy, no one can say anything against us. Who can assault the character of someone passionate about bringing good into others’ lives?
 
3.14But even if they do is a contrast not as plainly seen in English. This verse starts with a powerful contrastive (αλλα) that points to how we should act in the face of totally unwarranted hostility. Even if our pursuit of good gets us in trouble, we can still be happy! Even in this life we cannot lose. We cannot let fear dictate our behavior, and we cannot let anyone’s intimidation cause us to react with hostility.
 
3.15 – Instead, we should make the most special place in our heart God’s place. We don’t serve fear, we serve God. If someone shows hostility to us when we’re doing good, we have to be ready to give a rational explanation for our hope with an attitude that proves our supernatural allegiance. Our fear of God must be greater than our fear of man.
 
We do this because our goal is to bring others to God! It’s hard, but we can only do it when we remove self from the equation. People tend to attack what they do not understand. By using reason and by restraining our emotional response, we can help save their souls. We were all hostile to God at one point, but we now have mercy. Being controlled and rational while under “attack” is not a normal human response. Our response can mean the difference in someone’s eternal destination!
The Silent Influence

The Silent Influence

Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments

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Carl Pollard
 
I can still remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday morning and I came downstairs to see dad sitting where he always sat every single morning. He was in his lazy boy recliner drinking what was probably his third cup of coffee, wearing his fuzzy dad slippers and a pair of reading glasses. If I saw that combination, I knew what dad was doing.
 
Every morning he would get up early, grab his coffee, Bible, slippers and glasses, and sit in his lazy boy recliner. And every morning I would see him sitting there reading. When I look back and think about these instances, I now see just how powerful his actions were. He wouldn’t tell us what he was doing, he wouldn’t tell us to join him, he wouldn’t tell us why he was doing it. He would just grab his Bible and read.
 
When I think about influence this is what I think of. A committed man of God. Showing us by his actions how to grow our own relationship with The Father. The silent influence that I saw growing up has shown me the power of actions. Through his actions I saw what his priorities were. I saw what his focus was. I saw who he loved more than anyone else.
 
There’s nothing we should want more as Christians than to have this kind of influence on others. Not preaching at them day and night condemning them and cutting others down, but showing them by our actions what a relationship with God looks like. If we work on perfecting our faith and cultivating a genuine relationship with God, people WILL notice. For others to be affected by our influence we need to get three things straight: our priorities, our actions, and our speech.
 
When we think about winning souls, it’s best to start with our own before looking to others. If we can grow our faith and be fully invested in our relationship with God, people will notice and ultimately glorify God.
 
Matthew 5:13-16
More Than A Fish Story!

More Than A Fish Story!

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Dale Pollard

Some times it can feel like our life is a ship on the verge of breaking apart in a violent storm. Maybe we placed too much trust in the now creaking wooden planks that buckle and groan over dark turbulent waters. In a last stitch effort to stay afloat, we madly rush about throwing any non-essentials overboard.

At times we turn to anything or anyone in an attempt to discover some lifesaving advice— perhaps a miracle? If you’re a child of God, you’ve got access to salvation even in the storms. Jonah 1:4-5 depicts chaos, panic, and overwhelming fear. Those sailors on the boat with Jonah had no idea where they should turn for their salvation. With each passing moment their ship threatened to burst into splinters and “each one cried out to his god” (v. 5).

But Jonah? He’s asleep. He has some kind of knowledge and relationship with the Creator, but he doesn’t fully understand how powerful his God really is.

The application, then, is humbling. Today our communities are filled with people whose lives are rocked and they’re looking for a savior with lifesaving power. They turn to the things in which they’ve placed their trust, and to no avail. How many of us hold the answers they need, but at times find ourselves spiritually sleeping— selfishly keeping this message to ourselves?

Mission Possible

Mission Possible

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Writing to a church filled with multiple ethnic groups, Paul has a broad goal in mind in writing the Roman epistle.  Having dedicated himself to “world-wide” evangelism, as Acts and his letters show, his heart was on more than winning Jews in one small part of the world.

In Romans ten, Paul is reaching the crescendo of the doctrinal argument he makes in Romans 1:15-17 about salvation through faith in Christ.  In the middle of the chapter, he states some principles that are worthy of our attention.  Consider briefly Romans 10:5-17.

Here, we have the message expressed (5-10).  It is the message Paul has been stressing throughout the letter, a message of “righteousness based on faith” (6).  It is a word of faith (8), one emphasizing what the scriptures say (Paul quotes Deut. 30:12, 14, 21, Psa. 19:4, Isa. 28:16, 52:7, 53:1, 65:1-2, and Joel 2:32 just from Rom. 10:6-21), and a message meant to touch the heart (8) and lead one to eternal salvation (9-10).  Thankfully, the same word that tells us to “make disciples” tells us to do that through the divine message of scripture.

We also have the men envisioned (11-13).  Twice, Paul says that “whoever” (11,13) calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  The Lord’s riches are for “all who call on Him” (12).  He makes no distinction between Jew and Greek (12).  That underscores the biblical idea that God wants all men everywhere to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).  

We have the means executed (14-16).  Paul exalts preaching and preachers.  This is honorable work requiring honorable people.  They are an indispensable part of God’s soul-winning plan (14).  They are divinely sent (15).  They are positively described (15b). They dispense good news (16).  As Paul writes Corinth, preaching is God’s medium for saving men’s souls (1 Cor. 1:18).

Finally, we have the mission embodied (17).  The word of Christ must be heard, and faith results by hearing that word.  People do not teach themselves.  Societies are not won accidentally or incidentally.  There must be deliberate, often sacrificial, activity—preaching, planting seed, and perseverant persistence—to fulfill that mission.

We have mission work to do right here.  We have it to do daily at our jobs and in our more immediate communities and neighborhoods.  Whether you are going across the street or around the world, fulfill your mission! 

Your Impact

Your Impact

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

On August 6 and 9, 1945, the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bomb itself, compared to the city, was quite small; the devastation is still at the front of many minds today.

There is a lot of evidence on earth of multiple meteor impacts. It is chilling to watch re-creations of how those impacts would have affected the earth. A meteor just six miles across has the potential ability to destroy most of this planet, which is 24,901 miles in circumference. So, something just 0.024% of earth’s size can potentially destroy it entirely.

This country has 321,400,000 people. The church makes up about 0.03% of the US Population. We are ahead of meteors in terms of our ability to make an unforgettable impact.

It is far too easy for us to think, “I’m just one person,” or, ”We’re just a couple hundred people in a community of thousands,” but God can do mind-blowing things with just one person. With His Son, He gave all humanity across eons of time the ability to be saved. With just 12 apostles, the church grew into a global fellowship. With just one faithful Christian, an entire community of lost souls can be reached.

When a meteor strikes the earth, it’s not the crater that creates such devastation: it is what happens afterward. Maybe you convert just one soul. That soul turns around and converts his/her family. That family reaches out to their connections and shares their newfound faith. Before you know it, hundreds of lost souls are now in Christ. All because of the effort of one person to convert one soul!

“Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:9-10).

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An Evangelist For An Unworthy Gospel?

An Evangelist For An Unworthy Gospel?

Friday’s Column: Supplemental Strength

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Brent Pollard

I convinced my parents to watch a show I enjoyed with me. I doubt I converted them to watching the same kind of programs as I like but I was happy they enjoyed what we watched together. I was acting as an evangelist, wasn’t I? I told them about something that I felt fervently about, convinced them to look into it themselves, and then encouraged them to commit to following through with it. As I enjoyed the afterglow of the moment, I was hit by a realization. Why is it easy for us to tell others about a book or movie but not about the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

I suppose one answer is fear. If a friend thinks my movie suggestion is stupid, then he will just think I have bad taste in movies. At worst, he won’t ask me my opinion about movies again. The Gospel is different, though. We’re putting ourselves out there. What we present doesn’t just require the forfeiture of an hour and a half, but a lifelong commitment. What we fear is the loss of that companion since we feel as if we are requiring something great from them. The truth, however, is that it is not we who put forth the requirement. God does. We merely relay the information. Thus, regardless of a negative reaction, if we’ve spoken the truth in love (Ephesians 4.15) we’ve done what we are supposed to do in letting them hear what God requires of them (Ezekiel 3.17-19).

I suppose another answer is shame. I don’t fear what my friend thinks about my secular choices. However, I am reminded of the adage that one never publicly discuss religion and politics. Certainly, we have seen with the latter how divisive of a subject it can be. People unfriended me following the last Presidential election simply because they knew I supported the candidate for whom they didn’t vote! Imagine how that person will take the news that the cherished religion of his grandmother was not one that was true to the teaching of the New Testament? The Thessalonians felt their world had been turned upside down (Acts 17.5-8), and I am sure that my friend would feel the same way too.

Yet, that is not the truth, either. I have no power to condemn any grandmother to hell or grant her access to Heaven. God’s Word is truth (John 17.17). If the truth turns one’s world upside down, the fault lies within the worldview that was turned the wrong way, to begin with. As brother Keeble used to say to such a one bothered by the fate of grandmother, “If she had been taught what you’ve been taught, how do you suppose she would have reacted?” Just the fact that discussing religion in polite company is frowned upon is insufficient to dissuade the one genuinely loving his neighbor.

The next time you find yourself excitedly chattering on about something you’re zealous about to a friend, remember that it is possible to talk with them about Jesus that way as well. The only reason that we don’t is that we feel that we cannot. Love casts out fear (1 John 4.18). And if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father (Matthew 10.32-33). Hobbies are great, but may we not find ourselves more energized by them than by the Living God.

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Spiritual Maintenance

Spiritual Maintenance

Wednesday’s Column: Third’s Words

Gary III

Gary Pollard

Since being mainly confined to home, we’ve had a lot more time to do outdoor activities. One of those activities (besides mowing and building a chicken house) has been target practice and clay shooting. Not only has it been an enjoyable activity, it has also been a great way to spend time with family and engage in some friendly competition.
After the range is cold and we’re ready to stop, the process of cleaning our guns begins. Some don’t require as much cleaning as others, but all of them get a brush, cleaning rod, and some lubricant. This helps to prevent wear and tear in the long term, but it also prevents build-up from causing malfunctions or damage next time. It’s not always the most enjoyable activity but is necessary anyway.
It’s far too easy to get caught up in the concerns of life (especially now!), to the neglect of our spiritual maintenance. Most of us are currently unable to worship physically with our spiritual family. We have had to cancel many of our church events and get-togethers. We are more-or-less confined to our homes. Financial and health concerns are at the front line of our minds.
If we don’t stay on top of our spiritual maintenance while this craziness is going on, all kinds of nastiness will build up in our lives. While the world is more or less halted, are we continuing to be tools for good? Have we used some of this time to inspect our spiritual well-being? This is such a great opportunity to do a self-checkup using scripture to clean parts of our lives that need to be removed.
As stated earlier, cleaning guns is not exactly exhilarating. It can be painstaking, monotonous, dirty, and time consuming. If it isn’t done, though, it will lead to premature wear and tear and malfunctions.
Breaking sinful behaviors, leaving our uncertainties in God’s hands, confronting our spiritual struggles, resolving doubts in our faith, repairing relationships that we have damaged, and working towards tangible growth in our spiritual lives can be far from exciting or fun. These things require effort, discomfort, confrontation, and dedication. While not the most pleasant in the moment, they will help us to be the best that we can be.
When we do our spiritual maintenance we become better encouragers, better soul-winners, better friends/family, and we develop strong endurance. Our goal in all of this is to reduce the wear and tear of our spiritual lives by living like Jesus. This kind of maintenance will allow us to do more than last a while – properly maintaining our spiritual lives and relying on God’s grace will cause us to last for eternity with Him.
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Evangelism Effectively Executed (POEM)

Evangelism Effectively Executed (POEM)

Neal Pollard

We need to know the Bible, to study and apply,
And teach and share with others, their faith to solidify.
But often, before they’ll listen to a consonant or vowel,
They need to see us on our knees, with our basin and our towel.

For fine speech can lose its luster, and argument its shine
When its power in our own lives, is unseen and unapplied.
“I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,”
Is the common man’s mantra, as he’s searching for the way.

And a teacher whose compassion and listening ear is offered,
Will open up a heart before one single verse is proffered.
For the adage, often spouted, is a proverb we need to share,
People do not care how much you know til they know how much you care

The way to reach an eternal soul involves more than the mind,
And every servant of Jesus knows it takes service pure and kind.
Loving care that costs us in terms of money, effort, and time,
Will soften hearts made hard by worldly greed and grist and grime.

Dear Christian as you pray to God, “Lead me to some soul today,”
Keep your eyes peeled for a struggling, straggling soul astray,
Then be a neighbor, show him mercy, you just might be surprised,
When he listens to the truth of God you have actively exercised. 

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